Those wonderful folks who brought you the Internet now propose to put carp to work, or something:
The latest project from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) aims to improve military intelligence by using a range of aquatic creatures — from large fish to humble single-celled organisms — as underwater warning systems.
“We’re trying to understand what these organisms can tell us about the presence and movements of all kinds of underwater vehicles in the ocean,” says Dr Lori Adornato, programme manager of the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (Pals) project.
This doesn’t quite mean that they’re sending tuna out to chase submarines, but:
Living creatures react in various ways to the presence of vehicles. One of the most familiar is the phenomenon of bioluminescence — some marine organisms glow with light when disturbed. This is the focus of one of Darpa’s strands of research.
“If you have an organism like noctiluca present on the surface of the ocean and an underwater vehicle that’s close to the surface, you will be able to see that from the air because of the bioluminescent trail,” explains Dr Adornato.
You may know Noctiluca scintillans under the scintillating name of “sea sparkle.” And not only does it glow now and then, but it gives off a none-too-faint scent of ammonia.