Killer dolphins armed with toxic darts, on the loose

Okay, prepare for the sheerly weirdest piece of news to emerge from the Katrina tragedy: Sources say the hurricane accidentally set free a handful of top-secret bottlenose dolphins that are equipped with toxic darts and trained to stun terrorists.

No, I’m not making this up, nor indeed could I. The dolphins are part of the Navy’s “Cetacean Intelligence Mission”, which was founded in 1989. They’re outfitted with the darts, and are supposed to swim around Navy subs and keep them safe from terrorist attack by identifying any rogue frogmen and stunning them. Leo Sheridan, an accident specialist, told The Guardian he’d heard that the dolphins got loose during the hurricane, which raises the following specter:

“My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,” he said. “The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?”

Man, I would not want to be the surfer trying to catch some serious pipe when Flipper goes into 007 mode. Given the incredibly high intelligence of dolphins, I can imagine two scenarios here: i) The dolphins are wise enough to realize something is remiss, and they hold back on attacking anyone. ii) The dolphins are totally bored of serving their bipedal masters and revolt, in which case, as The Onion predicted a few years ago, we are screwed.

NOTE: According to Snopes, this is “probably” an urban legend. The Cetacean Intelligence Mission does indeed exist, but dolphins probably aren’t outfitted with toxic darts.

(Thanks to Debbie Chachra for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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