Image via Science Mag | YouTube
As one might imagine, it’s a tough life for sea creatures that have lost their ability to swim. When your entire world is under water, you have to be able to navigate it somehow.
The bottlenose dolphin in the video above is named Winter, and she lost her tail fluke after getting into a fight with a crab trap line. Because of her lost tail fluke, Winter began to twist her body from side to side in order to move in the water. Unfortunately, her new method of movement caused her body to develop scoliosis, so researchers and biologists began devising a plan to help Winter regain some of her natural movement.
Reported at the annual American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting, researchers showcased the first-ever artificial dolphin tail fluke that they developed for Winter.
What the team found was that even though Winter had a new tail fluke similar to the one she once had, she was still not nearly as efficient in the water as the other dolphins she shares a pool with. The average dolphin has a stride length of about 0.80 to 0.90, but Winter’s was coming in around 0.35.
The good news is that even though Winter’s new tail does not give her maximum efficiency, she’s able to move around much easier than before, and in a way that is not detrimental to her health.
As you can see, Winter has a curvature in her body profile that is unlike most other dolphins. By using 3D modeling software to study her body movements and wake patterns, researchers hypothesize that it is the curvature of her body that is hindering her swimming ability.
They believe they will be able to use the information gathered from studying Winter to help engineer even more helpful dolphin prosthetics for other dolphins down the line.
Winter still lives in her Florida aquarium home where visitors can watch her and her new prosthetic tail fluke in action!
h/t Science Mag