- A bottlenose dolphin named Winter lost her tail after getting tangled up in a crab trap. She was forced to swim from side to side like a fish, which warped her spine.
- Two prosthetists decided to build Winter a whole new tail, something that had never been done before. In the process, they invented a new kind of gel.
- Today Winter's false tail is helping to straighten her spine, and “dolphin gel” cushioning has proved useful for human athletes who have lost limbs.
In December 2005, when winter the bottlenose dolphin was just a few months old, she was swimming with her mother in Mosquito Lagoon, along central Florida's Atlantic coast. Somehow she got herself tangled in a crab trap. An eagle-eyed fisherman spotted her struggling and called in a wildlife rescue team. The volunteers gently positioned the dolphin on a stretcher, carried her out of the water and drove her across the state to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
She was in bad shape when she arrived—exhausted, dehydrated, and sporting numerous cuts and abrasions. She could barely swim, and trainers stood in the tank with her, holding her little body up in the water. No one knew whether she would make it through the night. But she was a survivor, enduring that first night and the next one, too.
This article was originally published with the title A Dolphin's Tale.