01/17/2012 05:33 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2012

U.S. Navy Could Use Dolphins To Find Iranian Mines In Strait of Hormuz

With fears that Iran may attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. Navy may call upon the underwater mine-detecting capabilities of dolphins to keep important oil shipments moving safely out of the Persian Gulf.

According to The Atlantic, the Iranian military could try closing the Strait with armed boats, anti-ship missiles or underwater mines.

If mines are employed, it's possible the U.S. could get help detecting them from the natural sonar capabilities of dolphins, according to NPR.

In a recent interview, retired Admiral Tim Keating told NPR's Tom Bowman that dolphins could lend a flipper in America's fight to keep commerce flowing.

From NPR:

BOWMAN: The surveillance includes sophisticated drone aircraft and a sophisticated mammal.

KEATING: We've got dolphins. And how lovable is Flipper? But they are astounding in their ability to detect underwater objects.

But not everyone is on board with the idea of enlisting dolphins in a possible military conflict.

Animal rights activists have sent petitions to the Defense Department warning that the use of dolphins in this manner puts the mammals' lives in danger, The Atlantic noted. According to the activists, the dolphins would be treated as "enemies" by opposing forces and could also be killed as they search for mines.

Dolphins aren't the only sea mammals employed by America's armed forces to help sniff out danger. Last year, ABC reported that whales and sea lions have also been used to hunt for mines.

Though, perhaps instead of aiding military missions, dolphins could teach us about how to resolve conflicts peacefully. In 2010, Science Daily reported that dolphins use diplomacy when they communicate.