How to Turn a Dolphin, Sea Lion, or Whale Into a Sea Creature Commando

Members of the code 715 Marine Mammal Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, in San Diego. Members of the code 715 Marine Mammal Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, in San Diego. U.S. Navy/AP

As The Wire reported earlier this week, in addition to annexing Crimea, Russia stole Ukraine’s killer dolphin army. The dolphin army (or navy, depending on your point of view) will be joining forces with Moscow's existing killer sea lion unit. Yes, these are real animals in service to their country's military. Even the United States Navy has a sea creature division which includes dolphins, sea lions and whales. 

What are the world's greatest military forces doing with enlisted marine mammals? We did some digging to find out exactly what a sea creature commando can do, and if they've done any real damage in the past.

Ukraine’s dolphin commando unit was allegedly trained to defend ships with knives attached to their heads (seriously), but dolphins are capable of much more. Bottlenose dolphins can also be trained to “retrieve equipment lost at sea and to identify intruders swimming into restricted areas.” 

The dolphins' most impressive skill makes them expert mine finders. The Navy Marine Mammal Program has found that dolphin sonar, known as echolocation,“makes them uniquely effective at locating sea mines so they can be avoided and removed.”  Basically, this makes dolphins incredible at telling apart man-made objects from natural objects even in murky, deep waters; even better than similar machines can do. When the dolphin finds a mine, it swims back to the boat and signals the naval crew by poking a ball or disk with its nose. The crew then gives the dolphin a weighted buoy line or an acoustic transponder to mark the location of the mine.

Read more at The Wire

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