Prostethic Tail for Dolphins

What do water animals do when they injure a “limb?” The movie “A Dolphin Tale” chronicles the struggles of Winter, the dolphin who had a prosthetic tail.

While we have already talked about orthotics and prosthetics for our furry friends, we have not talked about prosthetics for aquatic animals, or animals that live in the water. The most famous, and “world’s first bionic sea creature,” is the dolphin named Winter. Winter was a mere two months old when she got caught in a crab trap off the coast of Florida. The ropes had cut off blood flow to her tail, so her tail had to be amputated.

Rescuers took Winter to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida to recover. Vets there worried that she would develop scoliosis, or a crooked spine, trying to swim with her stump. Swimming that way required Winter to move her back side-to-side, instead of the normal up-and-down method. However, prosthetics master Kevin Carroll jumped in to save the day.

Carroll is one of the top animal prosthetic’s designers. He has designed prosthetics for dogs, an ostrich and a duck! Because Winter’s stump can move in all directions, creating one that would work well was a very tricky process. It took a year and a half, but Carroll eventually came up with a design.

After Carroll finished his work, it was time for Winter to get to work. She had to adapt to wearing the prosthesis, and then learn how to swim correctly. But she eventually learned to use her 30” silicone and plastic tail, which she wears for about an hour each day. Winter actually has about fifteen different tails, which are on display at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

You can learn more about Winter’s story online, or by watching the film “A Dolphin Tale.”

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