Veterinary experts from around the country conducted a necropsy to determine the cause of death of Winter, the dolphin whose true story inspired the movie “Dolphin Tale.”

The team, led by Dr. Shelly Marquardt of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the rehabilitation facility that took Winter in and gave her a prosthetic tail, says that preliminary results show that Winter died from of an intestinal torsion.

In a written statement the Clearwater Marine Aquarium said, “While our team provided Winter the best care and treatment available, the location of the torsion made it impossible to reach through surgery.  There was nothing more the team could have done to save her life.”

The necropsy is not complete and these are preliminary results.

The statement goes on to say that through her death Winter will be able to continue what she did during her life, “…helping scientists and animal rescue teams worldwide better care for these amazing animals.”

            “Thanks to the dedication and care provided by the CMA staff, and advancements by partners like the Hanger Clinic who created her prosthetic tail, she beat the odds and inspired millions of people during her life.  For this, we are forever grateful to her.

             The Animal Care staff at CMA worked around the clock to care for Winter in recent days, providing love and support, as well as medical care, including treatment to control pain and keep her comfortable.”

Clearwater Marine Aquarium


Intestinal torsions are, according to the release, “…a condition that is found in stranded wild dolphins as well as any living being with intestines.”

The condition is not uncommon in mammals. According to Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “Affected animals die quickly without any warning, and will appear pale…”  As of this writing, the University continues, “There is no single, proven cause.”  Some have theorized possible causes but none have yet been isolated.

Torsions of the stomach and intestines are possible in human beings as well, although the most commonly referred to torsion in man is testicular torsion, a painful twisting of the spermatic cord that could lead to the loss of a testicle or infertility.

According to the Mayo Clinic this torsion usually requires emergency surgery and there is no known cause, and therefore method of prevention.

The hope is that by studying cases of torsion – in whatever form – in other mammals, like Winter, the medical field will be able to prevent cases in the future.

For now Winter shall remain a source of inspiration for all and many will learn not only from the circumstances of her life and her passing, but also from her strength, courage, and beautifully uplifting demeanor.  Her tale will remain one for all.

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