Dolphins can recognize their old tank mates’ whistles after being separated for more than 20 years—the longest social memory ever recorded for a non-human species.
The remarkable memory feat is another indication that dolphins have a level of cognitive sophistication comparable to only a few other species, including humans, chimpanzees and elephants. Dolphins’ talent for social recognition may be even more long-lasting than facial recognition among humans, since human faces change over time, but the signature whistle that identifies a dolphin remains stable over many decades.
“This shows us an animal operating cognitively at a level that’s very consistent with human social memory,” said Jason Bruck, who conducted the study and received his PhD in June 2013 from the University of Chicago’s Department of Comparative Human Development. His study is published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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