Dolphin memory: a help to understand our memories


We can better understand the development of our memories thanks to the dolphins . It is the center of a psychology study conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge. In collaboration with the Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology of the University of Turin and the Zoomarine Park in Rome. Dolphins of the Tursiops truncatus species have been found to be capable, without any training, of remembering information. Information relating to “where” and “who” gave them an item. This reveals that dolphins have an “episodic” memory , that is, it contains information dated by space and time. The study shows that dolphins are able to remember information they didn’t know was important.

In the initial stages of the research, we trained 8 dolphins to take and then return a buoy to a specific location in their tank.

Elias Garcia-Pelegrin

In the memory test the researcher again asks the dolphin to bring the object back, but at this stage the object is no longer in the position where it was released. In this situation, the only possibility for the dolphin to carry out the task assigned by the researcher is to remember the previous episode and in particular where the object was and who was the experimenter who had left it, that is, accessory information stored in a way automatic.

Luigi Baciadonna, UniTo researcher and co-author of the study


All dolphins passed the ‘where’ memory test, and seven out of eight dolphins passed the ‘who’ memory test. The interesting aspect is that the information recalled in memory, essential to pass the tests, was secondary, not essential for the recovery of the object in the pre-test test. All of this suggests episodic memory in these marine mammals.

Livio Favaro, co-author and researcher in Marine Biology at the University of Turin

Thanks to the study, future research will shed light on further aspects of the development of human memory.

  • The memory of dolphins can help us understand our memories (


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