The Dolphin Marines Roll Out to Iran's Most Important Stretch of Water

The US Military invests billions of dollars in technology. But to keep the Strait of Hormuz — perhaps the most important stretch of water in the Middle East — open it's using an unusual, but no less innovative, technique: mine-detecting dolphins.

US officials worry that Iran might block the Strait of Hormuz using mines, armed speedboats or anti-ship cruise missiles, reports The Atlantic Wire. It happens that the strait is pretty much the only route to the open ocean for much of the petroleum-exporting Persian Gulf, so if that happened, it would force the US to retaliate, and things would get nasty.

So instead the US Military is trying desperately to keep the strait open-as-usual. That means keeping the water free from mines. So what do they use to do that?

"We've got dolphins," said retired Admiral Tim Keating in an interview with NPR. Dolphins! Mine-detecting dolphins.

It's not the first time that these smart-ass mammals have been connected with mine hunting. In 2010, the Seattle Times reported that the Navy has 80 bottlenose dolphins in the San Diego Bay alone, and a 2003 report detailed how dolphins are only used to detect mines, but never set them off.

So what do they actually do? Apparently they're taught to hunt for mines and drop acoustic transponders nearby. Then, the Navy use the information to identify mines and send out human divers to detonate them.

Unsurprisingly, this kind of thing causes a bit of stir amongst animal rights campaigners: after all, a dolphin's big enough to set off a mine if it touches one accidentally. There are no numbers available on dolphin battlefield fatalities though. [The Atlantic Wire; Image: pochacco20]