For decades, the US government has been training animals to keep us safe in times of both war and peace. It's amazing what these animals can do -- and how much science and technology are behind their missions.
Take, for example, the US Navy's Marine Mammal Program. The long-running program trains dolphins and other animals to perform aquatic tasks that human divers are unable to.
In this photo, a bottlenose dolphin wearing a locator beacon device leaps out of the water during a training exercise in the Persian Gulf. The animal is being trained to locate mines hiding in shipping lanes.
Sea lions are a big part of the US Navy's Marine Mammal Program.
In this photo, a California sea lion named Jack salutes his handler following a 2014 training exercise in Manama, Bahrain. Sea lions are used by the Navy to recover important equipment from the ocean floor faster than human divers can.
Though the US Navy Marine Mammal Program now focuses mainly on training sea lions and dolphins, sharks were once trained for naval use in swimmer protection missions.
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by Richard Herrmann/Minden Pictures/Corbis
They could be America's smallest living spies: The Defense Advanced Research Laboratory (DARPA) has been conducting research into creating insect cyborgs for some time.
Scientists implant electronics into the creatures when they're in their larval stage. As the insects mature, the electronics become fully embedded and hidden.
The resulting cyborg insects can be easily tracked, making them useful for surveillance missions.
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by The Lighthouse/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis
Bees, as scientists have learned, have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell. This is why DARPA has singled out honeybees for use in bomb-detection missions since 1999.
Scientists train bomb-detecting bees by exposing the insects to the scent of explosives as they feed on sugar water. When a honeybee encounters the same smell in the wild, it will instinctively raise its proboscis to try to feed as a Pavlovian response.
Small radio transmitters are used to track the location of the bees in the field. Digital cameras and specialized software, meanwhile, are trained to detect the waving of the probosces at a distance.
A living, breathing cat seems like a highly unlikely (and perhaps highly unethical) place to embed a listening device. But that was exactly the goal of a 1960s experiment by the CIA called Operation Acoustic Kitty.
Now-declassified documents detail how, in an hour-long procedure, veterinarians implanted a microphone in a gray-and-white female cat's ear canal and a radio transmitter at the base of the cat's skull. A wire ran under the cat's fur, using its tail as an antenna.
CIA leaders planned to release the cat near the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., hoping it would pick up valuable data.
But things did not go as planned...
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by Wavebreak Media LTD/Wavebreak Media Ltd./Corbis
Shortly after the government built its bionic kitty, problems began to arise. Every time the cat got hungry, it would wander away from its surveillance targets to look for food.
Scientists "solved" this problem by putting the cat through more expensive surgery to eliminate its sense of hunger.