Experience the Dolphins Like Never Before
Dolphin Discovery, the Aquarium's largest exhibit, first opened in 1990 and is home to our colony of seven Atlantic bottlenose dolphins
This exhibit is open for visitors to stop in as many times as they'd like. Guests get a glimpse into the daily life of a dolphin—how they learn, play and interact with each other—and can chat with our marine mammal experts to discover what it's like to care for, teach and build relationships with these incredible animals. On the day of your visit, download the free mobile app on your Apple or Android device, or check the digital screens located at the entrance, in Harbor Overlook and just across the bridge in Pier 4 for the most up-to-date talk times.
- Five females: Jade, Spirit, Maya, Bayley and Chesapeake
- Two males: Beau and Foster
Chesapeake was the first dolphin born at the National Aquarium, and she is the mother of our youngest dolphin, Bayley. Maya is a half-sister to Chesapeake (via dam, or mother), as well as a half-sister to Spirit (via sire, or father). Jade is the mother of Foster. All seven dolphins were born in an aquarium or zoological park.
This colony structure represents a complex social group for the dolphins and provides them with essential relationships. Bottlenose dolphins live in a matriarchal society, due to the level of care that females provide to their young; the males live in separate social groups consisting of a few members that are called bachelor groups or alliances. Here at the National Aquarium, we house our animals in what we call a nursery group, which consists of our females and our pair-bonded males.
Nani was the mother of Beau and Spirit. She passed away on Monday, February 27, 2017, after living at the Aquarium since 1990. At 44, she was the oldest dolphin in the colony. Born in the wild in 1972, she came to us from another aquarium that had to close.
In Dolphin Discovery, we have 13 marine mammal specialists. Our marine mammals team is responsible for the everyday care of our dolphins, including medical care, diet and nutrition, teaching and learning, research and of course a lot of playtime.
We have staff who work in this exhibit full time, and we have additional team members who assist with the care of the dolphins. Our veterinary team, led by Dr. Leigh Clayton, provides state-of-the-art medical care to each animal on a routine basis. It’s not unusual for guests to arrive and see our vet team checking in.
While some of the work our staff does with our dolphins takes place behind the scenes, most is done throughout the day while guests are enjoying the exhibit. Our marine mammal experts facilitate a number of different sessions: Some are focused on teaching brand new behaviors, others are dedicated to husbandry and some consist entirely of playtime.
When our team is not working directly with the animals, they spend a majority of their time cleaning. This includes buckets, toys, the kitchen, all of the backup areas and even the animals’ habitat. All specialists are scuba-certified, which allows them to enter the water and to scrub and vacuum each and every day.
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