Fuji, the First Dolphin with a Prosthetic Fin, Dies

The 45-year-old first of her kind succumbed to infectious hepatitis.

According to staff at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan, Fuji, the first dolphin in the world to receive a prosthetic tail fin, has died of liver disease at an age estimated to be about 45.

In early October, aquarium officials observed Fuji's appetite decreasing and her swimming patterns becoming unstable. She passed away on November 1.

Fuji arrived at the aquarium in 1976, after having been captured off Ito City, on Japan's eastern shore.

In 2002, an unknown disease caused 75 percent of her tail fin to rot. Without the fin, a dolphin cannot maneuver in the water. But thanks to a rubberized prosthetic tail fin designed by aquarium officials, with manufacturing by Bridgestone Tire Company, Fuji was able to swim and dive again, and even re-learn how to jump.

Fuji birthed three calves while at the aquarium, the last one in 1995. The aquarium plans to create a special exhibit dedicated to Fuji's memory.

Hat tip Asahi Shimbun, Japan Update

A keeper tends to female bottlenose dolphin "Fuji," the first of her kind to receive a prosthetic tail.

The month of June honors both National Ocean Month and World Ocean Day (June 8). What better time, then, to check out photos of undersea life and be reminded that things "down there" are just as important as things up here on land. Here, a manatee goes about its day. The manatee, also known as a "seacow," is an air-breathing herbivore listed as a federally endangered species. Manatees are slow moving and can't swim quickly away from boats. This often results in collisions that can kill or injure them.

Whales Counted With Space Satellites

Life's a beach. Mom and her baby elephant seal roll around in the sand in Ano Nuevo Island, Calif.

Elephant Seal Calls Tell Rivals Who's Boss

A humpback whale breaches in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of California.

Distinct Humpback Whale Populations Found in North Pacific

A blue rockfish fans for the camera in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, in California.

200-Year-Old Fish Caught Off Alaska

A Southern sea otter, aka,

Enhydra lutris nereis

, wonders what all the fuss is about, at South Harbor, Moss Landing, Calif. The World Ocean Day Photo Contest entrant was Submitted by Dr. Steve Lonhart.

PHOTOS: Otter vs. Gator: Otter Wins

A white-lobed sponge brightens up the scenery. It's one of several images of rarely seen deep-sea animals that were captured on camera in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary during a NOAA expedition. Researchers used a NOAA remotely operated vehicle in waters 328 to 656 feet deep off the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The research was funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.

Strange, Carnivorous Sponge Found In Deep Sea

This image brimming with colorful marine life is from the Pearl and Hermes Atoll. It's a huge oval coral reef within several internal reefs and is the second largest among the six atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

PHOTOS: Sharks, Marine Mammals Hang in Paradise

Having no backbone isn't always a bad thing! Just ask any octopus. These boneless invertebrates know how to squeeze into (and out of) many a tight spot. They have three hearts, nine brains and blue blood. (Two hearts send blood to the gills, while the third pumper sends it to the rest of the body.)

VIDEO: Octopi Have a Brain in Every Tentacle

Rapture Reef sits within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The monument encompasses more than 140,000 square miles of ocean and coral reef habitat.

PHOTOS: Life in Australia's Great Barrier Reef

A sea turtle swims off of the Hawaiian islands.

This seal is eager to wriggle its way back to freedom, as divers release it from fishing nets. Marine debris -- such as these nets -- makes a serious impact on its surroundings. From being an eyesore on a beach to injuring marine life or stopping a 400-ton vessel at sea, it causes problems that are difficult to ignore.

Seal Pup Found in Forest

Grey matter artwork? Nope! It's a sharknose goby (

Elacatinus evelynae

) propped up on brain coral in the U.S. Virgin Islands.