We’ve known for some time how dolphins are highly intelligent, have complex social lives and form strong bonds with other individuals however new research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B proves that in addition to other advanced traits, dolphins have the longest memories yet found in a non-human species.
The scientists conducted their research on 56 captive bottlenose dolphins that had spent their lives (of imprisonment) being moved from one facility to another in the name of breeding. Unlike in the wild, where individuals form close familial bonds, and stay within the same groups for their whole life, these poor dolphins were being moved from one concrete pool to another and having to mix with a variety of individuals from a variety of different backgrounds. The research proved that even if the meeting between two animals had been brief, and even if it had been decades ago, that they remembered the other dolphin’s signature call and responded.
An evoking example of this (not used in this study) is of Corky, the orca who was cruelly ripped from the wild and her family pod back in 1969 and taken into captivity, destined to spend the rest of her days in one of Sea World’s concrete tanks in San Diego. In 1993 – 24 years after her capture she was played tape recordings of her pod’s calls, she visibly shook and vocalised poignantly, in the same dialect as her family. Corky still remembers her family (the so called A5 pod in the North West Pacific Ocean), what must she think? And why must she remain so far away from them?
So perhaps now, the phrase where an elephant is credited with remembering everything can now be replaced with “a dolphin never forgets” – especially ones who are ripped from their families in the wild and sentenced to a life in captivity.