Sea Turtle with 3D-Printed Shell Piece Continues to Thrive Years After Innovative Procedure

The sea creature arrived at San Diego's Birch Aquarium in 2014

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A 3D-printed brace shell has helped one lucky loggerhead sea turtle in California get a clean bill of health.

The sea creature arrived at San Diego's Birch Aquarium in 2014. Before moving in, the turtle was found near a power plant in New Jersey. Rescuers discovered the female turtle underweight at 98 pounds and with a hole in her shell causing curvature in its spine, explains SD Today. By 2017, even with the aquarium's care, the sea creature's health status was not ideal, so the aquarium worked with the University of California, San Diego's Digitial Media Lab to create a 3D-printed brace for the turtle to help nurse her back to health and repair her shell.

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According to the outlet, after receiving her 2023 physical exam, which included taking new measurements, scrubbing the shell, and collecting a blood sample, the aquarium determined the turtle was feeling better than ever. The turtle now weighs a much healthier 210 pounds and is sporting a large, healthy-looking shell.

In a statement to FOX 5, Harry Helling, the executive director at Birch Aquarium, shared that the facility hopes that the turtle's progress gives visitors insight into the importance of marine creatures.

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"Many families are gearing up for a summer of exploration as warmer weather finally makes its way to San Diego," explained Helling. "By bringing back interactive feedings and introducing new offerings, the aquarium hopes to advance its mission of connecting understanding to protecting our ocean planet with new, fun, and engaging activities for our guests to enjoy."

Scott McAvoy, a manager at the Digital Media Lab, explained the procedure in a 2017 conversation with KBPS by stating that the shell was created by mirroring the good half of the shell and creating a "perfect form-fitting piece that just snaps right in there."

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Those interested in getting an up-close look at the sea turtle can visit the museum during its extended seasonal hours.

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