News / Science & Technology

Study: Dolphins Remember Each Other for Decades

File -  Dolphins  are seen at the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Ill.  (AP Photo/Chicago Zoological Society, Jim Schulz)
File - Dolphins are seen at the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Chicago Zoological Society, Jim Schulz)
VOA News
Dolphins, not elephants, may have the best memories of any non-human species.

In a new study, scientists say dolphins in captivity have shown an ability to recognize former tank mates’ whistles even after being apart from them for more than 20 years.

The study, done by researchers at the University of Chicago, shows that dolphins have the longest social memory ever recorded for non-humans. According to the study, dolphins’ skills in recognizing the whistle sounds may be better than humans' facial recognition skills because human faces change over time.

“This shows us an animal operating cognitively at a level that’s very consistent with human social memory,” said Jason Bruck, a specialist in comparative human development, who conducted the study.

His study is published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.

Bruck collected data from 53 bottlenose dolphins at six facilities that were part of a breeding consortium that kept decades of records on which dolphins had lived together.

Bruck compared the dolphins’ reactions to whistles of former tank mates with those of dolphins that were not familiar with each other. His initial studies showed that “dolphins get bored quickly listening to signature whistles from dolphins they don’t know.”

“When they hear a dolphin they know, they often quickly approach the speaker playing the recording,” Bruck said. “At times they will hover around, whistle at it, try to get it to whistle back.”

Bruck said dolphins even responded to calls they had not heard in decades.

In one notable example, Bruck played a recording of a female dolphin named Allie, who currently lives at the Brookfield Zoo, for Bailey, a female now in Bermuda.

The pair had last lived together at Dolphin Connection in the Florida Keys when Allie was two years old and Bailey was four. But 20 years and six months after their last contact, Bailey still recognized the recording of Allie’s signature whistle.

“Why do they need this kind of memory? I’m not sure they do,” Bruck said. “The cognitive abilities of dolphins are really well-developed, and sometimes things like this are carry-along traits. But to test whether this kind of social memory capacity is adaptive, we would need more demographic data from multiple populations in the wild to see if they experience 20-year separations.”

Here's a video about the experiment:


You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Nakameguro, TKO
August 10, 2013 9:34 AM
Dolphins need not meet so many mates in their life, so they are able to remember a few old mates for a long time.
Why does mass media like topics about dolphins, especially that dolphins may have some good abilities like human beings? Does they really think dolphins and human beings can communicate in the near future?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid