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Bionic Beetles, Spy Cats, and Other Military Critters

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: Science and technology, gadgets, ecology, DAPRA, military research, animals, beetles, cyborgs, biotechnology, espionage, Berkeley, California, PETA, military critters,

not a bionic beetle but cool-looking all the sameDAPRA-funded Berkeley researchers have tricked out a beetle with tiny electrodes that allow them to control its flight, reports California. Next step: Outfitting the insect with onboard sensors that relay information back to mission control. Hello, coleopteran espionage!

This certainly isn’t the first time animals have been “pressed into military service,” the University of Berkeley alumni magazine reports. The cyborg beetle is merely the latest in a line of distinguished (also often disastrous and no doubt PETA-enraging) military critters. California did us the courtesy of a recap. Here are a couple of my tragicomic favorites:

The common gerbil. “With their unique ability to smell increased adrenaline in sweat, gerbils had been slated to detect spies and terrorists since WWII. The Israeli internal security force put gerbils to work at the Tel Aviv airport, but cancelled the project when the furry creatures implicated innocent passengers who were just anxious about flying.”

The domestic cat. “The CIA inserted a transmitter and battery pack in a cat and put a microphone in its ear and an antenna on its tail, to eavesdrop on the Soviets during the Cold War. On its first test run, the cat was run over by a taxi before reaching the intended target.”

Source: California

Image by wildxplorer, licensed under Creative Commons.