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10 Animals with the Worst Memory in the World

Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee. Image via Shutterstock

Welcome, fellow memory enthusiasts, to the “Top 10 Animals with the Absolute Worst Memory in the Universe” (well, at least on our planet)! Prepare to be both amused and amazed as we delve into the minds of these forgetful critters.

Now, before you start feeling too sorry for these memory-challenged creatures, keep in mind that some animals have a memory system so specialized, that it’s like they have a built-in cheat code. They remember specific things for ages, while others… not so much.

The Memory Game

Seal Pup
Seal Pup. Image by Deposit Photos.

You see, the memory game in the animal kingdom is a bit like a talent show. Some critters are headliners, acing short-term memory tests with flair, while others are, well, the awkward contestants trying to juggle flaming torches but dropping them before the first twirl.

Jump to any section on animals with the worst memory that you are interested in below:

Key Points

Rattlesnake via Depositphotos.
AnimalShort-Term MemoryRemarkable Traits
Chimpanzee20 secondsHighly intelligent and our closest relatives.
Bees2.5 secondsExcellent pollinators and honey producers.
BaboonsLimitedIntelligent with the ability to understand language.
Hamster3 secondsKnown for food hoarding and as pets.
SealLimitedCan understand human commands and communication.
GiraffeFew secondsTallest mammal with impressive speed.
SlothLimitedSlow-moving and sometimes mistaken for tree branches.
TurkeyLimitedDomesticated and wild turkeys have forgetful tendencies.
Ostrich10 secondsFast runners but forget why they chase things.
SnakesLimitedLack emotional connections to events and limited memory.

#1. Chimpanzee

Chimpanzee
Alpha male chimpanzee at Kibale forest National Park. Image via Giles Laurent, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chimpanzees, those remarkable giant apes found in central and western Africa, share an astounding 98.7% of their DNA with humans, making them our closest relatives. The roots of our shared ancestry with chimpanzees trace back seven to thirteen million years ago.

Surprisingly, seeing chimpanzees listed among creatures with poor memory might raise eyebrows. We often perceive them as some of the most intelligent beings on Earth, if not the smartest.

Chimpanzees exhibit an impressive ability to tackle a wide array of complex challenges. Their brains, responsible for learning and development, continue to grow throughout their lives, akin to humans in this regard.

More on Chimpanzees

Two chimpanzee
Males generally stay where they were born but female leave. Image via Pierre Fidenci, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite this, there’s an intriguing paradox: why do these brainy creatures possess such weak short-term memory? According to National Geographic, chimpanzees have been observed forgetting an experience within a mere 20 seconds, a revelation that left biologists astonished, considering their close kinship with us.

It appears that humans developed a robust memory capacity long after diverging from our evolutionary ancestors. It’s important to note that short-term memory, distinct from long-term memory, pertains to information that isn’t crucial for immediate survival, such as locating food or avoiding danger. This short memory span earns chimpanzees a place on the list of the top 10 animals with the worst memory in the world.

#2. Bees

Bee
Female wild bee collecting nectar and pollinating a flower of Phlomis viscosa, Mount Carmel, Israel. Image via Gideon Pisanty (Gidip) גדעון פיזנטי, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bees, much like wasps and ants, are winged insects renowned for their crucial role in pollination, with a special focus on honey production, notably by the western honey bee. These industrious insects belong to the Apidae genus and are part of the larger clade known as Anthophila.

Bees are a diverse group, comprising approximately 16,000 or more species globally, categorized into seven different taxonomic families.

More on Bees

Africanized bee
The Africanized bee, also known as the Africanized honey bee and known as the killer bee. Image via Carlos Eduardo Joos, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to sustenance, nectar and pollen are the primary sources of energy for bees, with pollen serving as their main source of protein and essential nutrients, especially for their larvae. However, it’s worth noting that bee wolves, dragonflies, primates, and certain birds like bee-eaters are among their insect predators.

Despite their remarkable abilities in various domains, bees have a notable weakness in their short-term memory. Surprisingly, research has found that their memory recall duration is a mere 2.5 seconds, placing them on the list of the top 10 animals with the weakest memory in the world.

#3. Baboons 

delousing baboons
Mother baboon caring for her babies. Image via Unsplash

Most baboons live on the ground and eat various foods like fruit, roots, grubs, and other insects. As many as five to 200 or more baboons can be found in a single troop of females and juveniles, including a few transient males.

More on Baboons 

Baboons. Image via Depositphotos

Around puberty, male baboons leave their birth group. In contrast, females remain with their birth group throughout their lives. It is common for them to survive for between 20 and 30 years, but they can even live for up to 40. 

Baboons are highly intelligent primates who cherish their relationships with their families but have low memory. Biologists have found that baboons can understand words and language logically.

#4. Hamster

Hamster
A pet Syrian (also known as Golden Hamster). Image via Dennis Blöte, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, the number of people owning hamsters as pets has skyrocketed. Hamsters are forgetful. Their owners say that hamsters lose track of what they are doing in the middle of things. 

Hamsters are known for their food-hoarding behavior. They transport food to their underground lairs in large cheek pouches. When their cheeks are whole, their heads can appear to grow by a factor of two or three.

More on Hamsters

Funny Hamster. Image via depositphotos

Hamsters shed their summer weight in preparation for the winter. Hamsters kept as pets may also have this side effect, which has been linked to more exercise. 

The hamster’s short-term memory is thought to be no more than three seconds.

This is why these household pets are on the top 10 animals with the worst memory in the world. As far as hamster intelligence is concerned, there hasn’t been much research done to find out. Certain rodents, though, can recognize you and even reply to your name if you train them for long enough.

#5. Seal

grey seal
Grey seal in Scotland. Image via Pixabay

Since pinnipeds spend so much time in the water, they have an amphibious way of life. Seals only leave the water to breed, give birth to young, shed their old skin, rest, regulate their body temperature, or flee from water-based predators.

In reaction to extreme environmental conditions, such as changes in ice cover, several species are known to move long distances. 

More on Seals

leopard seal
Adult leopard seal. Image via Gilad Rom, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To keep themselves warm in the frigid waters, seals have a layer of fat under their skin called blubber. Having a water-resistant fur coat makes it easier for them to glide through the waves. The hairs on a seal’s face aid it in spotting prey in the dark and murky waters. Seals generally live 25–30 years; females tend to outlive males. 

Seals are one of the most intelligent species of animals. They can understand words, commands, signs, and human laughter, but they have poor memory. 

#6. Giraffe

Giraffes
Group giraffe in National park of Kenya, Africa. Image via Byrdyak, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world because of its long neck and towering legs. Even just the legs of a giraffe are taller than most people as they stand at nearly 6 feet.

Because of their large legs, giraffes can run up to 35 mph over short distances and 10 mph over longer ones. These intriguing animals usually travel in small groups of approximately six or seven through the wide grasslands.

More on Giraffes

giraffe
Image via Depositphotos

Giraffes may fight by slamming their long necks and heads into each other. The contests usually conclude peacefully when one animal gives up and walks away.

They look like they’re clever creatures. But their short-term memory spans only a few seconds. A giraffe’s short-term memory isn’t enough to remember that they have done something.

#7. Sloth

sloth
Baby sloth poses for the camera on the tree. Image via depositphotos

It’s the slow, methodical movements that give sloths their name. Like their popular names in various languages for example, French paresseux, the word “sloth” means “laziness.”

Slowness allows them to feed on leaves, which are low in energy, and it keeps them hidden from predatory hawks and cats that hunt by sight. Despite their inability to walk, sloths can swim. 

It’s not a significant surprise that sloths don’t have fantastic memories because they don’t shout. In the movie Ice Age, Sid the Sloth should have given you a fair sense of how naive these animals are. 

More on Sloths

Baby sloth poses for the camera on the tree. Image via depositphotos

It’s not uncommon for them to have such poor visual recall that they mistake their arms for tree branches, hold on with their opposing arms, and fall to their deaths. Worse, short-term memory and forgetfulness are the main challenges for this creature. No wonder sloth are among the top 10 animals with the worst memory in the world.

#8. Turkey 

Turkey
Male wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) strutting. Image by © Frank Schulenburg

Turkey share a common lineage with grouse, pheasants, and other avian species that can be traced back over 20 million years in North America.

Newborn turkeys stick close to their mother all year round. In the wild, despite their preference for roosting in trees, mothers keep their young at ground level to shield them from predators until they’re capable of self-sufficiency.

More on Turkeys

turkey
Image via unsplash

While wild turkeys can reach impressive speeds, their flying ability is limited, often resulting in a brief flight followed by a clumsy descent. Conversely, most domestic turkeys are unable to fly because they’ve been selectively bred to be much larger than their wild counterparts.

When it comes to intelligence, turkeys aren’t known for their smarts, and their memory is considered one of the weakest among animals.

#9. Ostrich

Ostrich
South African ostrich (Struthio camelus australis). Image via Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ostrich is a big, flightless bird exclusively found in Africa’s open country. The males are primarily black, with white plumes on their wings and tails, while the females are mostly brown. Reddish and blueish, the head and most of the neck are lightly draped; the legs, notably the muscular thighs, are bare.

More on Ostriches

Female ostrich (Struthio camelus) with chicks, Kalahari desert, South Africa. Image via depositphotos

The head is small, the bill is short and broad, and thick black lashes frame the large brown eyes. 

At least they can blame their macho behavior on the fact that they can not recall how foolish they are. The short-term memory of only 10 seconds means they may be chasing something without knowing why.

#10. Snakes 

Snake
Snake in Florida. Image by george stewart via Unsplash

Most snakes have very poor or no memories at all. This may be a surprise given the numerous snake-horror movies we’ve seen over the years. While they may be unable to recall details, it is more likely that their brains aren’t built to make emotional connections to the events they encounter

Since they can learn to distinguish between predator and prey, your pet snake may or may not be aware of your existence. 

More on Snakes 

Eastern Garter Snake
Eastern garter snakes eats pests such as slugs. Image via depositphotos.

Animals or items they’ve previously encountered have scents that they can identify and remember but have no associated memories. Even if they can’t remember why they should be doing something, most snakes have an innate sense that it’s right.

Despite popular belief, snakes have no concept of being pets and may not even recognize their owners. They also have no capacity for building a relationship with humans, such as seeing them as more than just animals that haven’t impacted them and would be too big to be prey, so they leave the others alone.

Animals without brains

Immortal jellyfish
Immortal jellyfish- Image via Depositphotos

Learning how animals without brains function and adapt to their natural environment is fascinating. Many hours of research have been devoted to learning everything there is to know about these unique animals. It is only in water that animals without brains can be found.

Most of these animals attach themselves to rocks or the ocean floor to survive. And they make the list of top 10 animals with the worst memory; is because you need a brain to have a memory!

Starfish 

Red star
An indian red sea star (Fromia indica), in Maldives. Image via Frédéric Ducarme, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sea stars live in saltwater in all oceans, from the warm tropical waters to the freezing bottom. The suction-cupped feet of sea stars allow them to hunt for mollusks such as clams, mussels, and oysters. 

The starfish can distinguish between light and dark because it has small eyes at each arm’s end. They’re good at spotting movement but can’t do much else. Just the right amount of information to watch for food and adversaries. Because it contains all the essential sensors it needs to remain attentive, this animal does not require a brain.

Jellyfish

Jelly fish
Jelly fish in nyc. Image via Brandie Heinel from New York, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They are a vital portion of the species Cnidaria known as jellyfish and sea jellies informally. Although some jellyfish are fixed to the seafloor by stalks rather than being mobile, most have umbrella-shaped bells and trailing tentacles.

Rare among creatures lacking a brain, jellyfish move about during their life cycle. The jellyfish may migrate with the water currents. Squirting water from its mouth can also be used to propel itself ahead.

Sea Urchins

Sea Urchins
Sea urchins tidal Pool at the Seattle aquarium in Washington State. Image via Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sea urchins, like sand dollars and starfish, are a species of spiny sea creature. Because of their hard, spherical, and spiky bodies, they may readily be mistaken for shells or pebbles.

Sea urchins are simple creatures, yet they have a formidable protection system. Skin, tissue, and even bone damage can result from a single sting from one of these venomous insects.

If you’ve ever trodden on a sea urchin, you’ll know just how dangerous they can be. When you’re at the beach, keep an eye out for these fellas.

Sea cucumbers

Sea cucumber
A grouping of small sea cucumbers in Komodo National Park. Image via Nhobgood Nick Hobgood, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Echinoderms, which include sea cucumbers, are creatures that live in the water. 1,250 species have been identified so far, and many resemble soft-bodied cucumbers.

Although some sea cucumbers reside in the shallows and others in the deep ocean, they are all ocean dwellers. It’s not uncommon for them to be partially buried beneath the ocean’s surface.

Something is endearing about the small worm-like critters. Most of the animals mentioned in this article eat plankton that floats on the ocean’s surface. They can be found in every corner of the globe, and their skin is made of a material that resembles leather.

Corals

coral reef
School of fish near corals. Image via Unsplash

A polyp is a hollow cylindrical structure linked to a surface at its base by an internal skeleton. A mouth enclosed by tentacles can be found at the free end. Nematocysts, specialised stinging structures that paralyse animals, are found on the tentacles that gather food.

Like jellyfish, corals are members of the “Cnidarian” family of marine organisms. Asymmetrical bodies and the ability to sting their foes are standard features among the creatures.

You may mistakenly believe corals to be planted, but they are, in fact, real, breathing creatures. As we’ll see, they are pretty simple animals, which makes sense given that they don’t have a brain.

Coral polyps are the tiny creatures that make up the coral. Jellies devour zooplankton, and corals do the same thing. Tiny tentacles collect plankton at night when they emerge from their burrows. The tentacle arm is pulled back inside and eaten as soon as something is caught.

YouTube video
“Top 10 Animals with the worst memory in the world”, Source: YouTube, Uploaded: Animals around the globe

Summary of Top 10 Animals with the Worst Memory in the World

Pair of Happy Dolphins
Pair of Happy Dolphins. Image via Depositphotos

Amazingly, a surprising number of animals worldwide possess exceptional recall abilities. Dolphins, and dogs, for example, have remarkable memories and can retain information for long periods.

But we just learned that there are also a lot of animals with a very bad memory!

Next Up

Young Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) on the tree. Image via depositphotos

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