Dolphins cannot see through water easily, and hearing the calling card of another even a long way away enables them to tell if it is a mammal they know or not, and, if the former, who it is and if it is friend or foe – one to avoid or to embrace. They remember the call, the appearance and the personality of another dolphin just from hearing it whistle far away.
A group of American researchers have been studying dolphins for 20 years, and they have discovered that these extraordinary mammals can remember the whistle of another dolphin from 20 years before, meaning that they have the longest memories ever found in non-humans. Because the study has been only for that same length of time, it is likely that dolphin memory is far longer – and dolphins can live for 50 years, with no signs of memory loss.
These creatures, deservedly, are much loved for their playfulness, gentleness, and for an indefinable quality of wisdom and timelessness which is bewitching. I hate to see them in captivity, but see the joy and healing they bring to people; I recognise their role as a teacher and a bridge, bringing man back to Gaia; and I see their light. There is so much about the mysterious dolphin that we do not understand and do not deserve to understand – and its whistle may say far more than researchers know, for now.