The U.S. military already trains dolphins to hunt for mines. But why draft Flipper, when you can get Jaws, instead?That's the thinking, I guess, behind the Pentagon's decision to fund research into brain implants that could one day lead to sharks becoming "'stealth spies,' capable of gliding undetected through the ocean."At first, the implants are being used to "steer" spiny dogfish, New Scientist notes.
As the dogfish swims about, the researchers beam a radio signal from a laptop to an antenna attached to the fish... Electrodes [inside the fish's head] then stimulate either the right or left of the olfactory centre, the area of the brain dedicated to smell. The fish flicks round to the corresponding side in response to the signal, as if it has caught a whiff of an interesting smell: the stronger the signal, the more sharply it turns.Boston University biologist Jelle Atema plans to use the implants to study how sharks track chemical trails. We know that sharks have an extremely acute sense of smell, but exactly how the animals deploy that sense in the wild has so far been a matter of conjecture. Neural implants could change all that.Of course, this isn't the only shark-inspired research the military is conducting. The Navy has tapped three firms to build prototype gadgets that duplicate what sharks do naturally: find prey from the electric fields they emit. The Army, on the other hand, is looking to outfit its soldiers with synthetic gills.(Big ups: Clark, who says, "Obviously they never saw that cinematic classic, Deep Blue Sea.")