The Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, originally a cooperative effort of the Naval Ordnance Test Station and the Navy Missile Center, is now conducted by Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego (SSC San Diego), previously named the Naval Command, Control and Ocean Surveillance Center Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Division (NRaD) and the Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC).

This publication provides an updated bibliography of the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program. This update contains works published through 31 December 1997. Some 220 publications are added to the previous edition, published in February 1992 (NRaD Technical Document 627, Revision C), plus two new chapters (Neural Networks and Reintroduction/Return to the Wild), reflecting areas of increased interest and importance. For a bibliography of literature published prior to 1963, see Squire, 1964 in the Miscellaneous section of this document.

This revision, like previous revisions, is organized into subject areas. The Miscellaneous subject area contains publications about general topics, evolution, taxonomy, conservation, and history of the Marine Mammal Program. Each publication is cited once; cross-referencing between subject areas is not provided.

Entries in this bibliography include publications by contractors and by other non-Navy researchers whose materials or facilities were provided by the Navy.

In-house publications are identified by the acronyms NOTS (Naval Ordnance Test Station), NUC (Naval Undersea Center), NSWC (Naval Surface Weapons Center), NOSC (Naval Ocean Systems Center) and NRaD (Naval Command, Control and Ocean Surveillance Center Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Division). These publications consist of TMs (Technical Manuals), TPs (Technical Publications), TRs (Technical Reports), and TDs (Technical Documents).

The majority of the papers listed were published in established technical journals, books, or in proceedings of significant conferences where Navy efforts were reported. These are available from the publishers or technical libraries.

Copies of the Navy in-house publications can be obtained from the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161; the cost varies according to the size of the document. A select number of these publications can be found at the website indicated above. In the case of some conference presentations, abstracts can be obtained from the authors by written request to the SSC San Diego Public Affairs Office at the following address:

Commanding Officer
ATTN Public Affairs Office D003
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center
53560 Hull Street
San Diego, CA 92152-5001


The U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program had its origin in the acquisition, in 1960, of a Pacific white-sided dolphin for hydrodynamic studies. Navy scientists designing torpedos had heard accounts of the hydrodynamic efficiency of dolphins, and were interested in determining whether dolphins did in fact have special characteristics that might be applied to the design of the underwater missiles. Work with the white-sided dolphin indicated that she possessed no unusual physiological or hydrodynamic capabilities, but it was suspected that limitations of the physical facilities and the measurement capabilities at the time might have affected the study data. Under a new program, research on dolphin hydrodynamics has been resumed, with the same goal the original work had—to determine if the dolphin does indeed possess a highly evolved drag reducing system. The capabilities for undertaking this work are now greatly improved and include instrumentation for measurements that previously could not be made. Among the possible drag-reducing mechanisms being studied are skin compliance, biopolymers, and boundary layer heating, which may or may not work synergistically.

Early Navy marine mammal work centered around Point Mugu, California, where a modest facility for research and exploratory development gradually evolved on a sand spit between Mugu Lagoon and the ocean. The program got underway in 1963. The primary interests were in the study of the marine mammals’ specially developed senses and capabilities (such as sonar and deep-diving physiology) and also how dolphins and sea lions might be used to perform useful tasks. A major accomplishment was the demonstration that trained dolphins and sea lions could be worked untethered in the open sea with great reliability. In 1965, a Navy dolphin named Tuffy participated in the Sea Lab II project off La Jolla, California, carrying tools and messages between the surface and aquanauts operating out of the habitat 200 feet below.

In 1967, the Point Mugu facility and its personnel were relocated to San Diego and placed under a newly formed organization which has since undergone a number of name changes, including Naval Undersea Center (NUC); Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC); Naval Command, Control and Ocean Surveillance Center Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Division (NRaD); and, currently, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego (SSC San Diego). Shortly after the headquarters move to San Diego in 1967, a laboratory was established in Hawaii at the Marine Corps Air Station on Kaneohe Bay. Some of the personnel and animals at Point Mugu transferred to the Hawaii Laboratory, and later the rest of the operation moved to a new facility on Point Loma in San Diego. Here the research and development program begun at Point Mugu has continued. This has included further studies of the capabilities of marine mammals; development of improved techniques for diagnosis and treatment of health problems; neurophysiological studies, using behavioral and other non-invasive techniques, to gain a better understanding of how the large dolphin brain functions; development of instrumentation for determining, by brain wave activity, the hearing range of a cetacean; and investigation of how dolphins produce the sounds they make.

Marine mammal work at the Hawaii Laboratory was concerned with behavioral studies, reproductive physiology, further research on the dolphin echolocation system, and investigation of the potential of marine mammals for performing useful tasks more efficiently, safely, and cost effectively than is possible using human divers or submersibles.

In 1993, as the result of Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) action, the Hawaii Lab was closed, and the majority of the animals moved to San Diego. A small group of animals remained, participating in joint research with the University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

In its operational systems, the Navy employs dolphins and sea lions to perform underwater surveillance for object detection, location, marking and recovery, working under the close supervision of their Navy handlers. On cue from its handler an animal searches a specific area using its sensitive underwater directional hearing (sea lions) or its biological sonar (dolphins). The animal reports to its trainer when the target object is detected. The trainer then makes a determination based on the situation what action to take—whether to send the animal to mark or recover the object, or employ human divers to make a recovery.

The Navy uses dolphins in operational programs for swimmer defense—to detect swimmers, divers and swimmer delivery vehicles, and, if the handler determines the situation warrants, to mark them; and for mine countermeasures—to detect bottom mines and moored mines. Dolphins are used for these tasks because their extraordinary natural biological sonar capabilities enable them to find objects in waters where hardware sonars do not work well due to poor acoustic environmental conditions. The swimmer defense system was deployed to Vietnam in 1970-71 and to the Persian Gulf in 1987-88.

An operational system developed in Hawaii employs California sea lions to locate and attach recovery hardware to unarmed instrumented test ordnance, which is fired or dropped into the ocean and then must be recovered. Traditional recovery involved human divers, who are handicapped by brief working times on the bottom, poor visibility, currents, and the requirement for medical personnel, a recompression chamber and other surface support. The sea lion recovery system, which eliminates this complex and potentially dangerous recovery approach, consists simply of a small rubber boat, a sea lion, and two or three handlers. When the boat arrives at the recovery site, the sea lion is sent over the side. Trained to detect the ordnance by an acoustic beacon placed in the object before the test, the sea lion indicates if he hears the beacon and accepts a bite plate to which an attachment device is mounted. A strong line tied to this device is payed out from the boat as the sea lion swims down to the object and attaches the device. The sea lion then releases the bite plate and returns to the boat for a well-deserved reward of fish while a crane is used to pull the object off the bottom. The system, which has a recovery capability to a depth of 1,000 feet, became operational in 1975 and has been in service use since that time.

In a similar project, called Deep Ops, a pilot whale and two killer whales demonstrated their ability to recover objects from greater depths. The recovery device the whales attached to the target object, a dummy torpedo containing an acoustic beacon, incorporated a hydrazine gas generator which was activated upon attachment of the device to the torpedo. The generated gas filled a large lift bag which raised the torpedo to the surface. Using this device, the pilot whale successfully recovered the torpedo from a depth of 1,654 feet. Although much was learned from the Deep Ops project, work with pilot and killer whales, the largest of the dolphins, has not been continued.

The capabilities of belugas, or white whales, have been investigated at the SSC San Diego and Hawaii facilities, San Clemente Island, and torpedo test ranges in Seattle and Canada. Although belugas are inshore and estuarine animals which enter rivers for calving and feeding, they were found capable of diving to at least 2,100 feet. In studies to determine their ability to recover inert experimental torpedoes at a test range, the belugas attached the recovery device to a dummy torpedo at 1,300 feet, the maximum depth available.

All Navy marine mammal training is performed using positive reinforcement with food reward, that is, the animals are rewarded with fish for performing their tasks correctly but they are not punished for failure to perform them. As the result of allegations of animal abuse within the Navy’s mammal program, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy invited two in-depth reviews by the presidentially appointed Marine Mammal Commission. The reviews in 1988 and 1990 resulted in satisfactory to outstanding ratings for all aspects of the Navy program. Additionally, the National Marine Fisheries Service, which maintains oversight responsibility for all marine mammals in the care of people in the U.S., reported findings in the scientific literature that showed the Navy’s dolphin survival rate is the highest among all organizations holding large numbers of marine mammals. This was attributed by the researchers conducting the study to "superior husbandry." Dolphin survival rate in the wild is reported in the scientific literature as 92 to 95 percent; the Navy’s dolphin survival rate for the past 10 years has been 95 to 97 percent, and during one recent period the Navy maintained an unprecedented 100-percent survival rate for more than a year and a half for the 140 marine mammals it was holding at the time.

Navy dolphins are maintained in their natural environment—bays and harbors of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans—in open-mesh enclosures that provide a normal echolocation environment and ample socialization opportunities except during medical procedures and actual training periods. Navy dolphins are trained untethered in the open ocean on an almost daily basis, and yet in the course of 30 years of such training and many thousands of these open-ocean sessions only seven of the Navy’s dolphins have failed to return to their enclosures.

The Navy’s marine mammal systems are subject to the same rigorous test and evaluation process required of any Navy system prior to fleet acceptance. Systems failing to met acceptable standards of effectiveness and reliability are rejected by the Navy. The Navy’s operational marine mammal systems are efficient, reliable and cost-effective.

This Annotated Bibliography of Publications from the Navy Marine Mammal Program provides an indication of the range and scope of projects undertaken since the beginning of the program in 1963.