Navy's Dolphin Work Outsourced to Robots

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Dec. 3 2012 4:56 PM

Navy's Dolphin Work Outsourced to Robots

In 2012, even dolphins are losing their jobs to robots.

The Navy has announced it plans to retire its fleet of mine-sleuthing dolphins by 2017. The 24 specially trained dolphins use their echolocation ability to detect active underwater mines and alert service personnel about them.

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But the Navy has developed sleek sonar robots to uncover the mines, and it plans to phase out the flippered fleet over the next five years.

In all, the Navy commands 80 dolphins in its $24 million marine mammal program, which it likens to canine units in police departments. The retired dolphins in the mine program will be reassigned to different tasks.

Jeffrey Bloomer is a Slate assistant editor focused on video. Follow him on Twitter.