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Science

Dolphin Memories Span At Least 20 Years 110

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the how's-it-going-bob dept.
sciencehabit writes "A new study reveals that bottlenose dolphins can remember each other's signature contact whistles — calls that function as names — for more than 20 years, the longest social memory ever recorded for a nonhuman animal. 'The ability to remember individuals is thought to be extremely important to the "social brain,"' says Janet Mann, a marine mammal biologist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the research. Yet, she notes, no one has succeeded in designing a test for this talent in the great apes — our closest kin — let alone in dolphins."
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Dolphin Memories Span At Least 20 Years

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  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @12:59PM (#44500081)

    How is this surprising?

    If my cat can remember the sound of my car I would hope a dolphin could do this.

  • by sinkasapa (2587241) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @01:07PM (#44500169)

    Dolphins don't use personal names.

    See "Dolphin naming?" by Mark Liberman
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003127.html [upenn.edu]

    And "Dolphins using personal names, again" by Geoffrey K. Pullum
    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=5453 [upenn.edu]

    A choice quote:

    Now, think about that. If you call out "Geoff Pullum!" in a crowded street, and I'm there within earshot, I'm likely to turn round and look at you. But what I am not likely to do is yell "Geoff Pullum!" back at you.

    Why can't dolphins do intelligent and interesting things without people applying unfounded anthropomorphic qualities to their behavior?

  • Parrots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @01:51PM (#44500847)

    In my experience, parrots never forget people they associate with (that's easiest to show when they have a certain call they make for a given person; I've known parrots to make such calls after years of separation).

    Alex the parrot lived 31 years. I bet he never forgot a grad student, and that data showing that are buried in Pepperberg's work.

  • Sugar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by azav (469988) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @02:19PM (#44501263) Homepage Journal

    When a wee pup in yon '70s of yore, my family would sometimes go down to Key West where we would stay at a hotel with a mini golf course and an enclosed lagoon with a trained dolphin.

    As a whelp, (yes, that's the correct spelling) I would do nothing else but stand by the dolphin pool watching, or play mini golf.

    After I had become a regular by the edge of the pool, every so often Sugar the dolphin would come up to me and click and wave a little and bob her head back, as if she was saying, "come on in!" I was simply entranced to be there and that a dolphin was paying attention to me.

    The next year after we showed up and I took my place on the edge of the lagoon, it only took 1/2 an hour before Sugar stopped, turned around in the water, swam over to me and greeted me as if she actually remembered me from the year before. Honestly, I'd expected her to have remembered "me" sooner, but I was happy none the less that a dolphin seemed to know and remember me.

    Sadly, we weren't able to go back the next summer, but the year after that we did. Eager to see if my friend Sugar remembered me, I stood by the pool for about an hour or two, knowing that she would come over when she realized it was me.

    No dice.

    No reaction at all.

    I was a sad panda. An ignored sad panda.

    This totally was a downer for me, and I realized that I might be wrong, that dolphins don't remember and aren't able to make out specific people. This was still on my mind the next morning when my parents and I walked off to breakfast and neared Sugar's lagoon.

    Before I could even get close to the pool, I could see Sugar turn towards me, zip over to the side of the pool near me clicking and bobbing her head, making quite a fuss, telling me "I can't believe that was you yesterday and I didn't even remember you! Welcome back! It's great to see you again little monster! Come on in!"

    One hell of a great creature she was.

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