Lionfish found at sunken ship 300 feet below water’s surface wreaking havoc

  • lionfishorg.jpg

    A popular aquarium fish and invasive predator, lionfish have a fan of soft, waving fins and venomous spines. (Oregon State University)

  • lionfishsealights.jpg

    Lionfish gather near the doorway of this sunken ship, the Bill Boyd, in this image taken by researchers inside the submersible Antipodes. (Oregon State University)

The relentless scourge of lionfish has crept to unexpected depths: Off the coast of Florida, researchers say they found the venomous invader thriving around a sunken ship at 300 feet below the water’s surface.

“We expected some populations of lionfish at that depth, but their numbers and size were a surprise,” researcher Stephanie Green, of Oregon State University, said in a statement.

Last month, Green and colleagues investigated the seafloor near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in a deep-diving Antipodes sub. At 300 feet deep, the team witnessed a large number of the spiny fish near the intentionally sunken Bill Boyd cargo ship, an artificial reef created in 1986. [See Photos of Lionfish & Other Freaky Fish]


“It was immediately clear that this is a new frontier in the lionfish crisis.”

– Stephanie Green of Oregon State University


While lionfish are typically between 12 and 15 inches long, the Oregon State researchers say they saw unusually large specimens as big as 16 inches long.

“This was kind of an ‘Ah hah!’ moment,” Green said. “It was immediately clear that this is a new frontier in the lionfish crisis, and that something is going to have to be done about it. Seeing it up-close really brought home the nature of the problem.”

Native to tropical Indo-Pacific waters, lionfish were introduced to the Atlantic by humans in the 1990s, likely through the exotic pet trade. Now found in reefs from North Carolina to South America, the rapidly reproducing invasive fish have voracious appetites, gobbling up native fish and competing with other species for food resources.

Worse, lionfish have no natural enemies in Atlantic waters, except spear gun-toting humans. Another study, detailed online July 11 in the journal PLOS ONE, found that not even sharks can curb red lionfish populations in Caribbean reefs.

Researchers are trying to figure out what is keeping lionfish in check in the Pacific so that they might stem the Atlantic invasion, which thus far has looked to be unstoppable. Prepared correctly, lionfish are said to make a tasty meal, but one prick from the fish’s venomous spine can cause excruciating pain. Lionfish derbies to bring in big catches of the predator have been held in Florida and the Caribbean.

“A lionfish will eat almost any fish smaller than it is,” Green said in a statement. “Regarding the large fish we observed in the submersible dives, a real concern is that they could migrate to shallower depths as well and eat many of the fish there. And the control measures we’re using at shallower depths — catch them and let people eat them — are not as practical at great depth.”

Lionfish also can produce far more offspring when they are large. A big, mature female in some species can have up to 10 times as many offspring as a female that’s half its size, researchers say.

Read more:

Icequakes: Melting icebergs make a startling racket

Published July 12, 2013
  • melting iceberg.jpg

    Melting icebergs make an underwater cacophony, new research shows. (Oregon State University)

In a world increasingly worried by man’s affect on the planet, a new study by Oregon State University shows that icebergs can cause more of a racket than people.

In the polar regions, where the effects of climate change is seen first, the breakup, calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, according to scientists. The study is being published in this month’s Oceanography.

Using an array of hydrophones, a team of researchers tracked the sound produced by an iceberg, from its point of origin in the Weddell Sea to its eventual demise in the open ocean. They had set out to find the base levels of this kind of naturally occurring sound and compare it with the human-influenced noise, such those found through marine activities like shipping and oil exploration.


Robert Dziak, the lead author of the study and a marine geologist, explained that in one hour-long period, the sound energy released by the iceberg melting was equivalent to the sound of a few hundred supertankers over the same period. Referring to the sounds as “icequakes,” the rapid melting of the iceberg caused the sound, much like the process and ensuing sounds of an earthquake.

When the Oregon researchers began to follow the iceberg, it had encountered 124-meter deep sandbank, causing it to rotate and grind across the seafloor. Causing semi-continuous noise tremors over a period of six days, when it entered the Bransfield Strait, it became fixed over a 265-meter bank where it began to pinwheel. Noise tremors became shorter and less pronounced.

Related: 5 incredible insect superpowers

Photos from the International Space Station showed that when the iceberg broke loose and drifted into warmer waters, it entered a period of rapid disintegration and within two months, the iceberg had broken apart completely. Scientists were no longer able to track it via satellite.

Hydrophones that recorded the sounds as the iceberg broke show that shorter duration sounds were much louder than the semi-continuous tremors. Deziak explained that when you pour a warm drink into a glass filled with ice, the ice shatters, causing a dramatic cracking sound. The same happens to an iceberg.

Not only that, hydrophones near the Equator even picked up the sound of the iceberg cracking in Antarctica.

The true effects of the noise pollution remains unknown, as scientists are just starting to study the impact of naturally occurring marine noise versus the noise created as a result of human-based marine activities.

Read more:

Expedition to isolated island discovers amazing sea life

  • remotest-island-4-cup-coral

    These cup corals were found in large numbers in the waters near Tristan da Cunha, at depths between 150 to 300 meters. (Sue Scott)

What lurks in the deep water off the most remote inhabited island in the world? This past month, a team of researchers trekked to Tristan da Cunha, an island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, to find out.

Marine biologist Sue Scott who, over the past decade, has made dozens of dives in the rough water surrounding the island and helped chronicle the unique life there went along on the trip. She’s based in northwestern Scotland but finds herself repeatedly drawn to the island this was her eighth trip and is one of the few experts on the sea life there. Until now, nobody had seen what lurks just beyond the range of scuba divers, at a depth of about 150 to 300 meters (492 to 984 feet) beneath the ocean’s surface. [Photos: Sea Life Off World’s Remotest Island]

The researchers sailed to the island on British Antarctic Survey vessel the James Clark Ross; the expedition was funded, in part, by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Researchers sampled deep-sea life with a camera that took photos along the ocean bottom, and they used several trawls to scoop up deep-sea life.

Rich sea life
Among the most remarkable creatures found were the larvae of rock lobsters (Jasus tristani) which, at this life stage, are called puerulus and look like living translucent leaves with eye stalks, Scott told LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet. Rock lobsters provide the primary source of income for the island’s inhabitants, Scott said. The team also found hermit crabs, feather stars, starfish and sea cucumbers. It’s very likely that several of them will be new species, considering many animals found in shallower waters are native to the island, and found nowhere else, Scott said.

In addition to sampling the bottom, the team also cast a net to see what lives in the middle of the water column above the seafloor. These nets yielded many “gelatinous, blobby things that will need a fair amount of identifying,” Scott said. “I have no idea how some of these live.”

Vulnerable species
Another notable find was a small fish called a dragonet, which has only been recorded once off the island in shallower waters. The researchers also came across a variety of sea slugs, cup corals and black corals. Black corals have been harvested elsewhere in the world to be made into jewelry.

“Black corals are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES,” Scott wrote in an online post detailing the expedition. “That means they are not necessarily threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is strictly regulated.”

Tristan da Cunha is a British territory located about 1,740 miles (2,800 kilometers) west of Cape Town, South Africa. It has only about 260 residents, according to the territory’s website. Just eight vessels come ashore each year from South Africa with limited spots, Scott said, meaning trips to the island must be arranged long in advance.

Read more:

Biologists race to solve mysterious mass animal deaths in Florida lagoon

Discovery News
  • FLlagoon.jpg

    This view, captured from the Space Shuttle Atlantis (oriented with north to the right), shows the John F. Kennedy Space Center. At the far right is Mosquito Lagoon and to the left is the Banana River. (NASA)

At least 111 manatees, 300 pelicans, and 46 dolphins — emaciated to the point of skin and bones — were all found dead in America’s most biologically diverse estuary.

Something is seriously wrong. The northern stretches of the Indian River Lagoon of Florida has a mass murder mystery that biologists are racing to figure out. The lagoon contains more species than anywhere else in the U.S. It is a barrier island complex stretching across 40 percent of Florida’s coast, around Cape Canaveral, and consisting of the Mosquito Lagoon, the Banana River and the Indian River Lagoon.

The lagoon has always been polluted by nutrients and fertilizers running off lawns and farms, but in recent years it appears to have reached some sort of tipping point, says Marty Baum of the Indian Riverkeeper.

“The lagoon is in a full collapse, it is ongoing,” he said.

Ghost Town Becomes Bird Beach Resort: Photos

In 2011, an algae superbloom covered 130,000 acres that killed off an unprecedented 60 percent of sea grass. A sea grass meadow serves as a shelter and spawning grounds for fish, and in terms of diversity, rates up there with tropical rainforests and reefs. It is also an important food source for manatees.


Something is seriously wrong. The northern stretches of the Indian River Lagoon of Florida has a mass murder mystery that biologists are racing to figure out.


Manatees began dying in July 2012, 43 of them in just one month. A total of 111 have died, and many of their stomachs were filled with various species of macro-algae. Given their primary food source of sea grass was no longer available, their deaths could have been liked to the diet change, says Kevin Baxter, spokesman for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC).

In August 2012, a brown tide of the algae Aureoumbra lagunensis spread through the lagoon.

The situation has not improved this year. The brown tide began in April and has crept through the water body.

Red Tide Slaughtering Florida Manatees: Analysis

People have reported between 250 and 300 dead pelicans since January to the FWCC. The birds are emaciated and have heavy parasite loads.

Since January, the number of dead bottlenose dolphins has reached 46. Researcher Megan Stolen at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute calls this an unusual mortality event, with numbers more than double the average recorded in previous years.

The dolphins also look emaciated, similar to the pelicans. This is not the first dolphin mortality event in the Indian River Lagoon. There were die-offs in 2001 and 2008 where the cause of death was undetermined, says Stolen. It has been difficult to isolate a cause because there may not be any one particular smoking gun, she says.

“If lots of bad things are happening all at once, we may not find a consistent cause of death,” she says.

Dr. Strangelove Advice for Going Green: Analysis

And bad things are happening in the Indian River Lagoon, Baum stresses.

There is so much farmland and laws in Florida that fertilizer is flooded into coastal waters. This is ideal for algae, which need high levels of nutrients and salinity to survive, and which triggered the death of the sea grass.

Florida has historically not set stringent limits for the amount of nutrients, such as phosphorous and nitrogen, allowed in its estuaries. That changed in March when Governor Rick Scott signed a law that will set some limits for nutrient loading by the end of 2014. Baum, however, says the law has too many loopholes that could prevent water bodies including the Indian River Lagoon from getting nutrient limits.

Read more:

How the hairy-chested ‘Hoff’ crab evolved

  • Kiwa-hoff-yeti-crabs

    ‘Hoff’ yeti crabs around vents on the East Scotia Ridge in the Southern Ocean. (CHESSO consortium)

Yeti crabs don’t comb their hair to look good they do it because they’re hungry.

These bizarre deep-sea animals grow their food in their own hair, trapping bacteria and letting it flourish there before “combing” it out and slurping it up. The crabs are found near cold seeps and hydrothermal vents, places where mineral-rich water spews out of the seafloor.

Like many animals that live in these extreme environments, yeti crabs have been thought of as “living fossils,” largely isolated from the rest of world and, therefore, unchanged for eons. But new research shows these animals actually evolved relatively recently, suggesting the deep-sea environments the crabs call home may be more changeable than previously thought and more vulnerable to shifts in the atmosphere and climate, said Oxford University researcher Nicolai Roterman. [See Images of Yeti Crabs & Bizarre Deep-Sea Creatures]

A study by Roterman and his colleagues detailing the evolutionary history of these bizarre creatures was published June 18 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and their research turned up a few surprises.

Whence the yeti crab?
Scientists have officially described four species of yeti crabs, the first of which was found in 2005, and all of which sport furry claws. Three years ago, however, Roterman helped discover another crab in the same family near the East Scotia Ridge in the Southern Ocean; it features a hairy chest on which the animal “farms” its own food, Roterman told LiveScience. Upon helping to discover the crab, Roterman nicknamed it the “Hoff” crab, after the shaggy-chested actor David Hasselhoff. “It was the first name that popped into my head,” Roterman said. “And it stuck.”

Roterman and co-authors found that these crabs are most closely related to squat lobsters, relatively common animals that live among deep-sea corals in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The researchers’ analysis of the different species’ DNA suggests the crabs arose in the eastern Pacific and then migrated west, extending their range into the Indian Ocean. Each of the yeti crab species shares a common ancestor that lived about 35 million to 40 million years ago, more recently than previously thought, Roterman said.

All but one of these yeti crab species live at hydrothermal vents, where water rocketing out of the Earth can reach temperatures of 716 degrees Fahrenheit. The crabs lead a perilous life, getting as close to the steaming water as possible to bathe their whisker-hugging microbes in the water’s nourishing chemicals. If the crabs get too close, however, they can be cooked alive.

More vulnerable than thought
The other species of yeti crab lives around methane seeps off of Costa Rica, and is named Kiwa puravida (the species name meaning “pure life,” the Costa Rican motto). Genetic evidence suggests this species branched off from its family’s common ancestors before the others, meaning that yeti crabs may have first evolved in these relatively less-extreme environments and later migrated to hot hydrothermal vents, Roterman said.

The crabs may also be more vulnerable than previously thought. These creatures make do with extremely low levels of oxygen, surviving at the limits that can sustain life, Roterman said. Oxygen arrives at these remote locations from the surface, making its way to the deep ocean after cold water has sunk at the poles and moved toward the equator.

The ocean’s circulation is sensitive to long-term increases in temperature, however. Studies have shown that the atmosphere greatly warmed and deepwater oxygen decreased significantly about 55 million years ago, possibly killing off animals that lived at hydrothermal vents at the time. Their demise, in turn, cleared the way for the yeti crabs to evolve and take over their current niche, Roterman said.

“I’m not suggesting these animals are going to be imminently effected by climate change, but that they are not completely immune to what happens at the surface,” he said.

“The number of knownKiwa species still is small, but [this] study conducts a competent phylogenetic analysis based on DNA sequence data,” said Robert Vrijenhoek, a scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute who discovered the first yeti crab in a 2005 expedition in the southeastern Pacific near Easter Island.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read more:

Dolphin stranded on sandbar rescued off south shore of Long Island

Published June 07, 2013

Associated Press

  • Dolphin Rescue_Angu.jpg

    June 6, 2013: Kimberly Durham, Rescue Program Director for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, tends to a Risso’s dolphin which the foundation rescued from a sandbar in Oak Beach, on the south shore of Long Island, New York. (AP/Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation)

OAK BEACH, N.Y. –  A dolphin has been rescued from a sandbar off the southern shore of Long Island.

The Risso’s dolphin is a 9-foot, 600-pound female. Staff from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation made the rescue Thursday near Oak Beach with help from the Coast Guard.

Foundation rescue program director Kimberly Durham says the dolphin will be closely monitored. It is being treated for dehydration and gastric bleeding.

It’s the second Risso’s dolphin recovered by the program in two weeks.

An adult female was found in the Hudson River 26 miles north of Manhattan. It later died of what officials believe is starvation from plastic bags blocking her stomach.

Read more:

Navy dolphin finds 130-year-old torpedo

By Megan Gannon

Published May 21, 2013


  • dolphin-torpedo

    Members of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific Marine Mammal Team pose May 15, 2013, with one of the Navy’s specially trained Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. The team, along with the dolphin, are responsible for the discovery and (Alan Antczak)

A Navy dolphin training to look for mines off the coast of San Diego found a museum-worthy 19th-century torpedo on the seafloor, military officials said.

The brass-coated, retro wonder of technology was one of the first self-propelled torpedoes used by the U.S. Navy. Just 50 of these so-called Howell torpedoes were made and only one other example has been recovered; it sits in the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash., outside of Seattle.


‘Realizing that we were the first people to touch it or be around it in over 125 years was really exciting.’

– Christian Harris, operations supervisor for the SSC Pacific Biosciences Division


The 130-year-old, 11-foot-long weapon was discovered back in March during a mine-hunting exercise that the Space and Naval warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) was conducting with bottlenose dolphins. [Top 10 Animal Recruits in War]

“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man. They can detect mines and other potentially dangerous objects on the ocean floor that are acoustically difficult targets to detect,” operations supervisor Braden Duryee, of the SSC Pacific Biosciences Division, said in a statement.

Dolphins use their natural sonar, called echolocation, to determine the size and shape of underwater objects by sending out a series of clicks that bounce off their targets and boomerang back to them. The marine mammals can be trained to report what they have found to human handlers using certain yes or no responses. Handlers can then investigate what the dolphins find by sending the animals to mark an object’s location with a weighted buoy line.

In this case, one of the dolphins indicated to its handler that it had detected a minelike target. The recovery dive team initially thought the dolphin had found an old tail section off an aerial drop mine, according to a statement from SSC Pacific, but officials soon realized they were handling a much rarer artifact.

“It was apparent in the first 15 minutes that this was something that was significant and really old,” Christian Harris, operations supervisor for the SSC Pacific Biosciences Division, said in a statement. “Realizing that we were the first people to touch it or be around it in over 125 years was really exciting.”

The Howell torpedo had a 132-lb flywheel that would be spun prior to launch. With a warhead filled with 100 lbs of gun cotton, the weapon had a range of 400 yards and could reach speeds of 25 knots, military officials said.

“It was the first torpedo that could be released into the ocean and follow a track,” Harris said. “Considering that it was made before electricity was provided to U.S. households, it was pretty sophisticated for its time.”

The torpedo is being kept in a tank of water to prevent erosion on its surface. The historical weapon will eventually be shipped to the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard.

Navy officials said last year that the U.S. military may begin retiring its dolphins in 2017 in favor of cheaper mine-hunting robots.

Dolphins’ amazing sonar ability can be a blessing and a curse for marine mammal-military relations; the animals are acutely vulnerable to high-powered naval sonar used during military tests, and past naval exercises have been linked to dolphin strandings.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read more:

Intraterrestrials: life thrives IN ocean floor

By Becky Oskin

Published March 15, 2013


  • JOIDES_Resolution_Helicopter_View.jpg

    The ship-based drilling platform off the Washington coast, where scientists extracted seafloor mud and rocks. (William Crawford/Integrated Ocean Drilling Program)

  • Photo_of_basalt_rock_with_internal_vein.jpg

    A basalt rock containing microbial life from deep within Earth’s crust. The fine crack in the middle is a vein that remained free of contamination during the drilling process. The darker area surrounding it indicates water diffusing from the vein into the surrounding rock. (Mark Lever)

  • mark_lever

    Microbiologist Mark Lever works with rock samples from the ocean floor. (Jesper Rais, AU Communication.)

An entire ecosystem living without light or oxygen flourishes beneath the ocean floor, a new study confirms.

Scientists call it the dark biosphere, and it’s potentially one of the biggest ecosystems on the planet. Buried oceanic crust covers 60 percent of Earth’s surface. For the first time, researchers have pulled up pieces of the crust and examined the life within. In its rocks, microbial communities thrive, eating altered minerals for food, the study found.

“They’re gaining energy from chemical reactions from water with rock,” said Mark Lever, a microbiologist at Aarhus University in Denmark and lead author of the study, published in the March 15 issue of the journal Science.

“Our evidence suggests that this is an ecosystem that is based on chemosynthesis and not on photosynthesis, which would make it the first major ecosystem on Earth that is based on chemosynthesis,” Lever told OurAmazingPlanet. [Strangest Places Where Life Is Found on Earth]

While bacteria and other microbes have been noted in deep boreholes drilled into the seafloor, the discovery confirms the extent of the life within the oceanic crust, as well as the possibility of life on other planets, the study scientists said.

“I think it’s quite likely there is similar life on other planets,” Lever said. “On Mars, even though we don’t have oxygen, we have rocks there that are iron-rich. It’s feasible that similar reactions could be occurring on other planets and perhaps in the deep subsurface of these planets.”

This week, NASA scientists announced the discovery of the chemical ingredients for life in Mars rocks, including sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon. The discovery suggests Mars could have once supported microbial life, scientists said.

Life inside Earth
The microorganisms living in the seafloor are diverse, consuming hydrogen, carbon, phosphorus and other elements, but for this study, researchers focused on methane-producing and sulfur-reducing species. The bacteria get their sustenance from inorganic molecules created during the chemical alteration of rocks by water. After consuming their “food,” the microbes emit methane or hydrogen sulfide (rotten-egg gas) as waste.

Lever nabbed the rocks and their microbes in 2004, during an international research expedition to the eastern flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the Washington coast. There, the water is 8,500 feet deep and an 850-foot blanket of mud buries the crust. Detailed studies by other groups show seawater circulates through the crust here.

The Juan de Fuca Ridge is a spreading center, where hot lava wells out of the Earth and creates new basalt rock. The drilling site was 62 miles away from the ridge, in 3.5-million-year-old basalt. It was also 34 miles from the nearest outcrop where water enters the basalt, Lever said. The rocks from the borehole were up to 980 feet deep.

DNA evidence indicates the organisms are modern and not 3.5-million-year-old fossils, Lever said. Under careful handling to prevent contamination, Lever also raised the bacteria in a lab at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for five years. The microorganisms released puffs of methane, adding proof of an active crustal community.

Katrina Edwards, a microbiologist at the University of Southern California, said Lever and his colleagues “dealt superbly” with potential contamination issues related to retrieving microbial life from oceanic crust. “They did a marvelous job of addressing those concerns,” said Edwards, who was not involved in the study.

Dark biosphere
“These results are incredibly important for our understanding of the deep biosphere in hard rock environments,” Edwards added. “The oceanic crust is the most ubiquitous ecosystem on our planet. Most of the microbial ecosystems on our planet exist in the dark. We’re so biased to light because that’s where we live, but in fact, most of the biosphere exists in the dark,” she told OurAmazingPlanet.

Researchers like Lever and Edwards are not only interested in the scope of intraterrestrial life — the biosphere living in the Earth’s crust — but they hope to determine how the deep bacteria changes the global carbon cycle and oceans.

As the microbes leach out minerals and excrete waste, they alter the chemical composition of rocks and circulating seawater. This underground factory could substantially alter the composition of the world’s oceans, though no one yet knows to what extent.

“There could potentially be a substantial biomass of organisms converting carbon dioxide into biomass and acting as a carbon sink,” Lever said. “We also know roughly 4 percent of Earth’s ocean volume is circulating through the crust, so there are many implications for how microorganisms that are present in the crust may influence global elemental cycles,” he said.

However, not all of the ocean’s crust may have the right conditions to support such an active ecosystem. Some regions may not have circulating water, or could run out of oxidized minerals, leaving no energy available for life. Also, some parts of the crust have oxygen-based life, Lever said.

“I think it’s likely that there’s life everywhere to the same extent, but we don’t know,” Lever said.

But Lever said finding microorganisms in basalt was not a surprise. Basaltic crust was likely the first hospitable site on Earth for live, and the methane-producing bacteria are thought to be the first life to evolve on the planet, he said. Close cousins to the bacteria found in the study’s rock samples now live in rice field soil and sewage sludge. [7 Theories on the Origin of Life]

“These are ancient organisms,” Lever said. “They’ve been around for a very long time and spread all over the world.”

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read more:

Ukrainian attack dolphins not roaming the seas for romance

Published March 13, 2013

  • bottlenose dolphin with camera.jpg

    Mar. 18, 2003: A bottle nose dolphin trained by the U.S. Navy to detect mines leaps out of the water in front Sgt. Andrew Garrett while training near the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) in the Arabian Gulf. Attached to the dolphin’s pectoral fin is a “pinger” that allows the handler to keep track of the dolphin when out of sight. (U.S. Navy / Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho)

A dolphin army with special knives or pistols fixed to their heads is not on the loose in European waters, a Ukrainian newspaper said on Wednesday.

A report in Ria Novosti made the outrageous claim Tuesday that trained dolphins from the Ukrainian Navy — specially outfitted with weaponry — had swam away from their handlers in February, probably hunting for mates.


‘Control over dolphins was quite common in the 1980’s.’

– Yury Plyachenko, a former Soviet naval anti-sabotage officer


“Control over dolphins was quite common in the 1980’s,” Yury Plyachenko, a former Soviet naval anti-sabotage officer, told Ria Novosti. “If a male dolphin saw a female dolphin during the mating season, then he would immediately set off after her. But they came back in a week or so.”

The report was a fraud, however, according to Anatoly Gobachev, director of the Ukrainian State Oceanarium.

In a newspaper article from New Sebastol, Gorbachev explained that the Oceanarium was closed on the day the “deadly” dolphins made a break for it, as well as several days before that. And while there are six dolphins at the facility, they are all still safely in their cages.

The hoax nevertheless appeared to have taken in several news agencies including Huffington Post and The Atlantic, which published an apology for the error on Wednesday.

Ria Novosti has not altered its story, however, which still states that a military source in Sevastopol told the agency last year that the Ukrainian navy had restarted training dolphins to attack enemy combat swimmers and detect mines. The agency has reported in the past on the existence of the dolphins army, which is trained to attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads.

There is at least a germ of truth to the story: Militaries have been known to train sea animals for a variety of purposes, including the U.S. Navy.

“Mammal systems” such as dolphins and sea lions have supported the U.S. Navy for more than 40 years. They were useful during the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and they have engaged in counter-terrorist missions.

The U.S. Navy’s Explosives Ordinance Disposal team locates, identifies and disposes of mines from 30,000 feet in the air to 300 feet below the sea. It considers sea lions and dolphins superior to UUVs (underwater unmanned vehicles) for some of those missions.

Dolphin mine hunters cleared the entrance, waters and harbor of Umm Qasr, Iraq, to support the humanitarian aid mission in the Spring of 2003.

Read more:

Sharks swarm Florida shore, forcing beaches to close

Published March 07, 2013

  • sharks_florida_030613.jpg
    Fox News
  • sharks_florida_030613_2.jpg
    Fox News

Beaches in Palm Beach, Fla., were temporarily closed after thousands of sharks were reportedly spotted swimming near the shore.

The sharks were first seen on Tuesday and were migrating north after heading south for the winter, marine biologists told NBC Miami.

Lifeguards in Palm Beach say the shark sightings have been occurring daily, and at least 50 to 60 sharks were spotted Tuesday.

On Thursday morning, beaches in the area were re-opened, the Palm Beach Post reports, after no sharks were seen near the shore.

Riviera Beach lifeguard Eddie Green said the sharks like to jump out of the water and come as close as 30 feet to the shoreline.

Click for more from the Palm Beach Post.

Read more: