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A Dolphin’s Tale: How Researchers Gave One Bottlenose a Prosthetic Tail

A bottlenose named Winter lost her tail to a crab trap. So scientists built her a new one

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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.

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