Aliens have come to Earth, and decided that the most intelligent life on the planet must live in the water, because it makes up most of the planet. They encounter dolphins and, upon learning to translate their language, form an alliance with them.

Given that humans:

  • Eat them
  • Keep them for entertainment
  • Pollute their homes
  • Made Flipper

Given that the aliens are prepared to provide the dolphins with material support and that dolphins have human intelligence, the dolphins (with the help of the aliens) declare war on the humans because of our treatment of them in the past.

The dolphins have been provided with:

  • Underwater cruise missiles with a range of 5 - 8 miles the explosive radius of these alien missiles can level entire city blocks.
  • Nose mounted underwater rapid cutting torches (NMURCT) these can slice a 1' x 1' square through battleship and submarine hulls in ~ 1 minute.

The goal of the conflict is to keep humans off the oceans and release any captive dolphins.

Given this scenario, how could the humans win (preferably without just nuking everything)?

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    $\begingroup$ Most of the world ignores dolphins (looking at you, Japan), for the most part. What are you thinking the dolphins would be angry at humans for? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ Any number of reasons including: eating them (Japan), keeping them in captivity (Seaworld), and polluting the ocean (everyone). Dolphins sometimes already attack humans, and at least the ones in captivity tend to exhibit violence towards their captors. (Just looking on Wikipedia) $\endgroup$
    – Ethan
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 3:15
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    $\begingroup$ First, water only makes up most of the surface area, not the planet. Second, why not conclude that the most intelligent animal lives in the air, since it covers even more of the planet? I mean, as long as they're using some totally incomprehensible metric to determine where an intelligent species would live... $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think the part of the question "how could the humans win" is an answerable one - a declaration of war by dolphins would be meaningless as dolphins don't possess any means of attacking humans except on a very small scale. If you mean the aliens declare war on behalf of the dolphins then that part of the question is basically "how could humans beat the aliens", which can't be answered without knowing more about the aliens. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ I guess a better question is would dolphins (and aliens) even have a concept of "war" as we understand it? War is a very human concept.. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 4:02

5 Answers 5


Edit in light of your premise altering updates:

Humanity Would Never Back Down

Releasing dolphin "captives" is an interesting idea, and probably achievable, just not by going to war. Keeping humans out of the ocean however, is unacceptable - we have too much to lose. There is no way in which humanity would be bullied out of using 75% of the Earth's surface by Flipper.

Dolphin Warfare

Dolphins armed with the weapons you describe could indeed hurt us if they attack just the right ships/oil rigs. They could cause billions of dollars worth of damage, not to mention the loss of human life. But the second humanity caught on what was happening it would be all out war, and it wouldn't go well for them.

Their Biggest Weakness

Dolphins are mammals, and as such they need to come up for air. They may be great swimmers, but he who rules the skies rules the battlefield, and dolphins sure as hell can't fly. Aerial patrols launched from carriers would be able to hunt groups of them down with zero casualties. We would annihilate them.

The Ace Up Their Sleeve. Flipper. Whatever.

Dolphins have way too much to lose by going to war with humanity. Blow torches won't help them when they have a fleet of helicopters and tactical bombers dropping depth charges on their families.

However they do have one huge advantage: they are universally loved. What does this mean? Instead of going to war, they should go public. Rather than asking the aliens for weapons, they should ask for translation machines.

Imagine the reaction when the first dolphin ambassador is interviewed on international news, speaks of the many injustices against his kind, and begs the world for help. It would change the world forever.

By revealing that they are sapient the world would suddenly become their oyster, because dolphins are cute. Political campaigns would revolve around how each party/politician is going to help dolphin kind. Companies would be tripping over one another to provide them with services. Dolphin fashion. Dolphin hotels. Dolphin restaurants. Dolphin smart-phones, and wearable tech. Dolphin assault rifles, for crying out loud. Government agencies would try to recruit them. Foundations would grant them honorary memberships. It would be a media frenzy.

And any poor bastard who has so much as poked fun at a dolphin before would be crucified by society. Fishing companies would have to step very carefully, or risk going bankrupt - if their boats are simply not torched by an angry mob.

So why would dolphins go to war? They have so much more to gain by being on our good sides.


The dolphins would keep quiet if they knew what was good for 'em.

Let's be serious, what could a few thousand angry dolphins DO to harm humanity? Scare some fish away? Knock over a couple of small boats?

Sure, they might kill a few people, or harm some communities, but once we realized what was happening we'd make sushi out of 'em in no time flat.

If they got super sci-fi weapons from the aliens then things would get interesting, but at that point humanity would be fighting the aliens as much as the dolphins, which really changes the scope of the question.

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    $\begingroup$ If the dolphins are intelligent then I'd sympathise with them being extremely cross with us. Nonetheless in practical terms "...humanity would be fighting the aliens as much as the dolphins" understates the case. Humanity would be fighting the aliens, full stop. The dolphins would be, briefly, interested spectators, and then lunch. And to answer the part of the question that asks what the humans could do to fight the dolphins (as opposed to fighting the aliens), all they need do is ask the Japanese and Peruvians to order a few more harpoons. Unless the aliens are very committed to... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ ...helping the dolphins, the dolphins' best bet is to appeal to human guilt feelings. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance - briefly, interested spectators, and then lunch LoL, i like it $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 14:05

Let humans do most of the job.

Dolphis shall:

  1. Aux armes, citoyens! Recover some underwater nukes (there are few dozens of nukes lost in accidents and many more planted). Carefully transfer them to Severodvinsk, Diego Garcia, Nakhodka, San Diego and other places of choice.

  2. Evacuate your kin (ask aliens' help).

  3. Detonate nukes in sequence resembling first strike and a retaliation.

  4. Enjoy the show.

Tapping onto the transatlantic cable and inject right messages may or may not help, I am not sure.

  • $\begingroup$ Bravo for coming up with a scenario for a dolphin victory, when this seemed like a pointless question since the dolphins had no chance. And your suggestion doesn't even require aliens. It may be barely plausible, but it would make a thoroughly entertaining B movie. $\endgroup$
    – user16107
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 8:31


War is too much work. Dolphins are far too sensible to undertake such an unpleasant course of action.

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.

-- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

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    $\begingroup$ “For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.” source $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ If you don't mind Draco, I'd like to add The Hitchhiker's quote to my answer. It is what I had in mind when I wrote the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, go for it. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 14:53

Given that dolphins are a thoroughly unpleasant species (remind you of anyone?) I'd guess that all the humans would have to do would be wait until the dolphin infighting begins, then follow up by playing the various dolphin factions against each other.

In terms of actual combat vs dolphins: Evacuating coastal cities is a good bet (the cruise missiles make shorelines dangerous, but inland is fine), followed up with drones strikes vs near-surface dolphin populations. Given that dolphins need to surface to breathe, an aggressive near-coast dolphin tracking and extermination programme pretty much guarantees they won't be able to get close enough to launch their missiles. Follow that up with aircraft carriers to hunt down the in-ocean populations and you've just exterminated the dolphins.

In terms on sea-combat: The dolphins only have cutting torches. You've got explosives, and shockwaves underwater are absolutely lethal. A destroyer or two would be all it would take to make mincemeat out of an attacking dolphin force, given that the ship hulls can be reinforced against the shocks but dolphins can't. The instant a cutting torch is detected: drop a depth charge or two. Bob's your uncle, even if it's a homemade charge. If you want an even more foolproof system: place shaped charges at strategic point along the hull. They won't have to be large. Any dolphin nearby will be pulverised as soon as it goes off.

EDIT Just realised that your underwater missiles could be used as torpedoes vs the boats. It still isn't that much of an issue. Anything capable of acting as a short range missile is going to make one hell of a racket on sonar, at which point you've just pinpointed the dolphins for a targeted strike. Oh, and you can probably still destroy or evade the missile with another torpedo or decoys.

Once the dolphins are dead or suitably cowed, go back to your seaside home and enjoy the (no longer dolphin, they're extinct) sushi.


Based on the knowledge that the Dolphins have of typical human behaviour with regards to the oceans (barbaric treatment of wildlife, pollution, ...) they will conclude that on their own, they can't do anything. The weapons that the Aliens provided will not change this in any dramatic way.

Here are some other scenarios:

  • The Dolphins parley their weapons into uplifting of their species by the Aliens. They leave the planet after manipulating the Galactic Bureaucracy into building a hyperspace bypass.
  • The Dolphins and the Aliens pool their knowledge and start a massive genetic weaponization of teh sealife. Before we know it the planet is in the midst of the events from The Swarm.
  • A lone facility used for experimental cybernetic & genetic experiments goes rogue. This results in rampant machine/fish hybrids that storm the surface world.

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