Combining science education with eye-candy, Greg MacGillivray's Oscar-nominated "Dolphins" makes a return visit to the huge IMAX screen at The Maritime Aquarium.

Generally regarded as the most intelligent of animals, dolphins are marine mammals, closely related to porpoises and whales. There are 40 different dolphin species found worldwide, mostly in shallower seas off continental shelves. Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, this nature documentary focuses on understanding these creatures' complicated ecolocation behavior and intricate physiology.

Connecticut native Dr. Kathleen Dudinski, has studied dolphin communication for many years, working from a lab in the Bahamas. Using an underwater video/audio array that she designed, Dr. Dudinski records the clicks, whistles and other sounds made by hundreds of dolphins as the cavort in the warm waters of the Caribbean. She then analyzes these tapes to determine which dolphin is vocalizing and how others in the pod react to particular sounds. And naturalist Dean Bernal has established a remarkable human/dolphin friendship with JoJo, a dolphin who cavorts with him in the reefs off Turks & Caicos.

During the past 50 years, Bottlenose dolphins have been popularized and romanticized by the "Flipper" movies and television series, as Flipper became a kind of seagoing Lassie, rescuing those in danger and always returning home. "Free Willy" (1973) starred an Orca dolphin named Keiko, and the horror movie "Orca" (1977) focused on a male Orca wreaking revenge after his mate was killed by fishermen. "The Day of the Dolphin" (1973) featured dolphins executing a naval military mission using explosives. And in the 1990s, "SeaQuest" introduced a Bottlenose named Darwin, who communicated using a vocoder, a fictional invention that translated clicks and whistles into English.

But the truth is that dolphins are endangered, particularly by fishermen trolling with huge nets. And even the cheery calypso music by Sting cannot sugarcoat that ongoing menace.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Dolphins" swims in with a splashy 7 -- and marine biologist Dr. Dudinski will discuss her research, along with the film, on Thursday, June 9, at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

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