Memory is a crucial aspect of daily life that often goes unnoticed until it is compromised. Without our ability to access information we learned earlier on, we’d miss important details necessary for growth and learning. Similarly, animals rely on their memory for various reasons, particularly for surviving and socializing. Interestingly, some animals have taken memory to the next level, marking them as beings with extraordinary abilities to remember.
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This article delves into thirteen animals with such superb memories that their abilities may be surprising to some. Whether it be certain birds’ ability to remember up to 2,000 food-storing locations, or sea lions’ recollection of sound patterns, one thing is clear: animals with developed memories are able to thrive.
13 Animals with the Best Memory
While you may have heard of the phrase “an elephant never forgets,” they aren’t the only animals that have incredible memories. Here’s a list of 13 animals that remember exceptionally well.
Scientific family: Delphinidae
Dolphins have long been recognized for their incredible memory abilities, and for good reason. Among the animal kingdoms, they certainly stand out as one of the best. These playful creatures rely heavily on their memory to keep track of social interactions with other dolphins they encounter. Each dolphin has a unique whistle, and scientists have found that they can identify the “voices” of dolphins they know even after a span of 20 years.
This incredible memory capacity not only helps dolphins to remember familiar faces but also allows them to recognize dangerous predators and navigate their environment more effectively. As highly social animals, dolphins rely on cooperation to survive in groups, making their memory abilities all the more critical for their survival.
Scientific family: Elephantidae
Elephants are majestic animals that are known for their incredible intelligence and exceptional memory abilities. Not only can they learn how to paint, but they use their remarkable recall to track up to 30 family members using a mental map that allows them to locate positions no matter the distance or direction. This is particularly useful when socializing or finding food, as they can break into smaller groups without worrying about getting lost.
Furthermore, their keen sense of smell helps to keep their mental map accurate by detecting location changes. But that’s not all – elephants also use their memory to distinguish dangerous from non-dangerous animals and humans. They can even recognize humans by their voices to avoid potentially threatening people.
Scientific order: Cetacea
Whales are absolutely fascinating creatures – not only are they the largest animals on Earth, they also have impressive memory abilities that serve them well in the wild. One of the most significant ways they use this memory is for learning and teaching their young. Young whales are taught important life skills by their elders, from how to play to how to hunt. It’s a lifelong lesson that enables each whale to survive in their natural habitat.
Whales also use their memory to migrate along the same water routes, so they can find the best food options. And, fishermen have reported that whales can recognize their boats, which is a vital skill for navigating the ocean and avoiding dangerous situations. These abilities just prove how intelligent and adaptable these magnificent creatures really are.
Scientific order: Octopoda
These amazing creatures have half a billion neurons that power both short-term and long-term memory. What’s even more fascinating is that their short-term memory can be enhanced during stress periods, allowing them to quickly learn and adapt to their environment to ensure survival.
As if that wasn’t enough, each of their eight legs also has its own memory, giving them superior reaction time to their surroundings. And let’s not forget their ability to change color and texture to blend into their surroundings. It’s no wonder they are such remarkable creatures with multiple hearts to match their complex and dynamic nature.
Scientific genus: Pan
Although chimpanzees are often deemed a lesser ape species, their cognitive abilities are anything but inferior. Recent research conducted at Kyoto University revealed that chimpanzees have memory capacities that surpass those of humans. In fact, they are able to memorise numbers both more accurately and at a quicker pace than we are.
Experts believe that these abilities are due to the animals’ photographic memory. When it comes to navigating their habitat, chimpanzees put their short-term memory to good use, allowing them to keep track of items they’ll need later on. Meanwhile, their long-term memory comes in handy when it comes to identifying predators and other humans that pose a threat.
Scientific name: Equus caballus
Horses are more than just majestic creatures that captivate our hearts with their beauty. These equine wonders have an exceptional ability to remember people and other horses within their community, even after years of separation.
Owners have always recognized this incredible trait before researchers confirmed it. Horses can recall old friends, family members, and even strategies that have worked over a decade ago to solve complex problems. They are intelligent animals that not only captivate us with their beauty but also with their intelligence, making them one of the most beloved animal companions in the world.
Scientific name: Canis lupus familiaris
Dogs truly have remarkable abilities that never cease to amaze us. One of their most impressive gifts is their memory. They can remember their way home after traveling far distances or being lost for a long time. Not only that, but they can recognize and remember their owners even after prolonged periods of separation.
Even if the owner was cruel to the dog, they can still recognize them and respond accordingly. Their excellent memory and ability to learn tricks and procedures make them perfect for law enforcement. Police officers train dogs to track down criminals, locate missing persons, and even detect drugs.
8. SEA LION
Scientific name: Otariinae
Sea lions have become quite popular due to their playful personalities and their ability to easily learn parlor tricks. But beyond their entertaining performances, these lovable animals hold a fascinating secret – an incredible long-term memory.
Scientists have found that sea lions can remember a trick they were taught 10 years ago, even with their short-term memory only lasting several weeks. This impressive ability is attributed to their longer lifespan of around 25 years, giving them ample time to hone their memories. Beyond tricks, this remarkable memory helps them remember specific prey that they may encounter only once every few years.
Scientific family: Sciuridae
Squirrels and nuts are an iconic duo that are deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness. While squirrels’ habit of gathering and burying nuts in the autumn is well known, what is truly impressive is the remarkable memory that enables them to retrieve their precious stash with ease.
Scientists have observed that squirrels will sometimes use their sense of smell to find hidden nuts, even if they belong to other squirrels. However, when these furry critters are really starving and need sustenance quickly, they will rely on their incredible memory to find a specific location where they hid supplies.
10. CLARK’S NUTCRACKER
Scientific name: Nucifraga columbiana
The Clark’s Nutcracker is truly a nut-loving bird! With its sharp beak and impressive memory, this species is able to prepare for winter in advance by collecting and hiding thousands of nuts during the fall. And when winter rolls in, they know exactly where to go to find their delicious meals.
In fact, this bird’s memory is so impressive that they can remember the exact location of up to 33,000 pine nuts! These birds are masters of spatial memory and use landmarks like trees to help them pinpoint the locations of the hidden nuts. And even under thick layers of snow, they are able to uncover these hidden treasures with ease.
Scientific order: Psittaciformes
Parrots may seem like just another bird species, but they are actually quite unique in more ways than one. One of the most fascinating things about these feathered creatures is their lengthy life span, with some living up to a whopping 80 years! It’s not just their longevity that impresses, though.
Parrots possess an excellent memory and can remember people for a long time, even if they haven’t seen them in years. But it’s not just people they can recall, as they can also commit words and sentences to memory, repeating them back to you when they feel like showing off their linguistic skills.
Scientific family: Corvidae
Move over parrots, there’s a new smart bird in town – the crow. Along with their fellow corvids, ravens and magpies, these birds are considered the cream of the crop when it comes to avian intelligence. Not only can they solve complex problems, but they can also use tools with ease. But what’s truly remarkable about these birds is their long-term memory.
Through a study where researchers wore masks, it was discovered that crows could remember a “dangerous face” for up to five years. And it wasn’t just recognizing a face, they were able to link that person to a stressful event and warn their friends accordingly. It’s clear that when it comes to brains, these birds are the real deal.
13. RED-FOOTED TORTOISES
Scientific name: Chelonoidis carbonaria
Red-footed tortoises have a remarkable memory, as researchers discovered in 2017. These tortoises are capable of locating food that they stashed away over a year and a half ago, proving their long-term memory to be top-notch. Furthermore, these creatures can also recall different qualities and quantities of food by making visual associations.
For example, they can learn which colour jelly is associated with a particular flavour, and even which flavour is their favourite. This incredible ability translates to survival in the wild, as remembering which plants and fruits to eat each season can be the key to receiving the best source of nutrients.
Do any animals have perfect memory?
Memory is a fascinating subject and is something that humans have been studying for centuries. While many animals have impressive memory skills, it is unclear if any possess perfect memory. The sea lion has been known to remember specific songs for up to 12 years, while elephants have been observed remembering old friends and places even after long periods of time.
What animal has a photographic memory?
What animals are associated with memory?
Throughout history, certain animals have been associated with memory. One prime example is the elephant. These gentle giants are renowned for their ability to recall large amounts of information, including complex social relationships and long migration routes.
Similarly, dolphins are known for their impressive memory skills. Their brains are packed with sophisticated neural networks that allow them to retain information about their environment and their fellow aquatic creatures.
Throughout history, certain animals have been associated with memory. One prime example is the elephant. These gentle giants are renowned for their ability to recall large amounts of information, including complex social relationships and long migration routes. Similarly, dolphins are known for their impressive memory skills. Their brains are packed with sophisticated neural networks that allow them to retain information about their environment and their fellow aquatic creatures.
Other animals that have been linked to memory include ravens, who possess the ability to remember individual human faces, and bees, who have an intricate internal map of the locations of flowers and other resources. These animal memory champions inspire us to think more deeply about the mysteries of the mind and the incredible capacities of our fellow creatures.
Growing up enjoying the beauty of my village, a good passion for nature developed in me from childhood. Following my passion for the natural world, I have chosen zoology for my graduation, during my undergraduate degree, I participated in many nature trails, bird watching, rescues, training for wildlife conservation, workshop, and seminars on biodiversity. I have a keen interest in invertebrate biology, herpetology, and ornithology. Primary interests include studies on taxonomy, ecology, habitat and behavior.