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DARPA's zombie-shark trainer looking at non-military applications

Evan Blass

Earlier this year we brought you news of an exciting DARPA-funded project whose goal was to take your common, household shark and turn it into a remote-controllable spy capable of gathering critical military intelligence such as the location of enemy mines and submarines. And sure enough, Boston University's Jelle Atema and his team learned how to crudely guide these kings of the sea using either electrical stimulation to mimic their natural neural processes or -- our favorite -- little gadgets attached to their noses that release delicious-smelling squid juice on cue. While Professor Atema was able to make a good deal of headway in his research, biologists still have a long way to go before they fully understand how sharks use odor stimuli to navigate, and DARPA funding ran out before any more progress could be made at BU: the zombie-shark project recently got sucked into the black hole that is classified military research. Despite the lack of support from Uncle Sam, however, Atema is eager to raise fresh funding in order to leverage his achievements into useful civilian applications; remote-control sharks could potentially be used to track fish populations, changes in ocean temperature, or chemical spills. But consider yourself warned: once we're able to lead these creatures around by the nose, so to speak, it's only a matter of time before some mad scientists (read: DARPA) equip them with bionic limbs, turning them into deadly, mythical land sharks; i.e. next time someone rings your doorbell and you hear a little voice whisper "candygram" from the other side, you'd better call animal control and then run like hell to grab that harpoon you keep in the attic. For more details about this project (but unfortunately, no mention of that land shark aspect we fabricated), check out the mini-documentary at the Read link...

[Via Defense Tech]

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