The dolphin with the artificial fin
February 17, 2007 3:54 AM   Subscribe

An artificial fin has given a bottlenose dolphin a new lease on life. Fuji, a dolphin at Okinawa's Churaumi Aquarium, lost 75 percent of her flukes to an unknown disease. But a prosthetic fin developed by Bridgestone Corporation engineers has enabled Fuji to swim again in the aquarium's dolphin lagoon. Watch the BBC video report here. Read the aquarium's notes on the project and see photos of Fuji both during and after the disease's onset here.
posted by jeffmshaw (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wait, what?
posted by Brittanie at 4:42 AM on February 17, 2007

Since dolphins don't have lawyers, this is probably a good market for Bridgestone to enter.

They don't have lawyers, do they?
posted by itchylick at 5:15 AM on February 17, 2007

Hey, maybe once the dolphin taken to its new fin and it's all better, they can release it into the wild, then hack it to death.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:23 AM on February 17, 2007

Okinawa is quite distinct from Japan culturally, flapjax, and is not part of that dolphin drive. Those hunts take place on the mainland.

Lots of people are unaware that Okinawa wasn't even part of Japan until being forcibly annexed in the late 19th century, but conflating Okinawan practices with Japanese practices is often a big mistake. The history and culture is very different.
posted by jeffmshaw at 5:35 AM on February 17, 2007

Very good point, jeffmshaw, and in fact I'm well aware that Okinawa and Japan are distinct entities. I was also well aware that my comment wasn't exactly a fair one, for the reason you've mentioned, and also for the reason that we're talking marine biologists here, and many of them are against the dolphin drives. On the other hand, many of the dolphins in aquariums around Japan, Okinawa and elsewhere are quite likely culled from the same dolphin drives, as some of the dolphins from those are spared the grisly hacking death and sold to aquariums.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:51 AM on February 17, 2007

Q: "how come we help dolphins but not poor kids in Iraq"?
A: Because the world is unjust.

I can't pay no doctor bills but Whitey's on the moon.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:24 AM on February 17, 2007

If you watch the video, the dolphin looks at least as mobile without the prosthesis attached..
posted by Chuckles at 7:53 AM on February 17, 2007

Video in the first link, that is. I watched the Reuters video too, and I can't tell if any of the jumping dolphins at the beginning are Fuji or not.
posted by Chuckles at 7:57 AM on February 17, 2007

Heh.. They acknowledge that it isn't working that well yet here:
Fuji became able to jump strongly and touch the target with the cowling model. Now she can also do high jumps. We are planning to start training for measuring her swimming speed.

Future Plans
So far we have developed several versions of the artificial fin. However, the newest version is not yet perfect. We still continue our research for better materials and way of attachment. We are still trying out new ideas.
It certainly is a very interesting effort, well worth the attempt. It does seem like yet another case of bad science reporting though.
posted by Chuckles at 8:03 AM on February 17, 2007

I somehow suspect the involvement of the world's tallest man in this one. I'm not sure how, but I'll get to the bottom of it...
posted by stet at 9:35 AM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dolphins are able to distinguish 'self' in mirrors, right? I wonder if it feels more intact, as in having a better self-body image, with the prosthesis as opposed to without it?
posted by porpoise at 9:55 AM on February 17, 2007

They don't have lawyers, do they?

They don't in the US since they have no legal standing.

I don't know about Japan and Okinawa, but I doubt it.
posted by homunculus at 10:13 AM on February 17, 2007

I sort of like the fact that the feel-good story about a dolphin getting a prosthetic limb has links on the same page to an elephant losing it's temper and destroying a car. I'm not sure why this pleases me. Perhaps it's the idea that the elephant is thinking 'Sure, the fucking dolphin gets all this attention. Ohh, look at me, I can swim again. Here I am with this stupid human on my back playing polo. I hate polo. You know what? It's clobbering time...'

So kids, the lesson of the day is that prosthetic dolphins are cute and all, but don't piss off an elephant when your van is around. Seriously.
posted by quin at 10:35 AM on February 17, 2007

Elephants can get prosthetics too.
posted by homunculus at 11:13 AM on February 17, 2007

Two of my favorite pegleg critter tales:
- Tahi the Kiwi gets a new leg, courtesy of the Wellington Zoo, the Wellington Artificial Limb Board, and Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop. It pays to be an iconic bird sometimes!
- A gull suffering from gangrene was saved by a passing ship, whose crew amputated the infected leg and replaced it with a gam and a hand cannibalized from a Barbie doll. As funny as I found this thought, the post-op photo is even better!
posted by rob511 at 3:11 PM on February 17, 2007

And I wouldn't dare speculate what that crew is going to do with a double-amputee Barbie....
posted by rob511 at 3:13 PM on February 17, 2007

This is awesome. Hooray for Fuji!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:26 PM on February 18, 2007

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