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March 5, 2009

Cute and Bionic Animals

Last week, Emily told you about the mermaid splashing about in New Zealand, and the dolphin-inspired flippers that are a pricey but fun way to speed along in the water.But humans aren’t the only creatures who can benefit from aquatic prosthetics. Winter, a bottlenose dolphin, was injured in a crab trap off the coast of Florida and lost her tail. Rescued by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, her stump kept her from swimming well. And even though she learned how to swim without her tail — a first for a dolphin in captivity — aquarium staff worried that she would hurt her spine.Enter modern science and Kevin Carroll.Carroll has designed prosthetics for animals before but this was his first dolphin. And unlike human prosthetics, which are fitted in line with one bone, Winter’s tail was to be attached to her spine and made to move in multiple directions. The months of hard work paid off; when she was fitted with her 30 inch silicone tail, “she was a dolphin transformed.”One last bit of bionic animal news, though this time, not ocean related. Paralysis in her hind legs doesn’t slow Avara down. The 10-year-old spurred tortoise at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo got her own custom skateboard. Apparently men care as much as women what the opposite sex drives – she’s resumed mating.