, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 17-25

Memory for action events in the bottlenosed dolphin

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We investigated whether a bottlenosed dolphin’s ability to recall and repeat actions on command would immediately generalize to actions performed with specified objects. The dolphin was tested on her ability to repeat 18 novel behaviors performed with potentially interchangeable objects specified using an artificial gestural language. Such “action events” were correctly repeated at above chance levels, indicating that the dolphin had access to memories of those events. Performance levels were, however, lower than in previous tests. The dolphin appeared to have difficulty recalling which object an action was performed with. Previous research has demonstrated that animals can recall features of their environment and features of their actions independently of one another. The results of this study demonstrate (1) that the dolphin’s concept of repeating extends beyond simply accessing memories of movement patterns, and (2) that dolphins’ memories of past events incorporate representations of both self-performed acts and objects, locations, or gestural instructions.