While there is considerable evidence that protein kinase activity is involved in memory formation, there has been, as yet, no direct investigation of a role for protein phosphatases. However, phosphatases have been implicated in the effects of the activation of glutamate receptors of the NMDA type, in long-term depression, and in the regulation of transmitter release and membrane ion channel activities, phenomena which have been shown to be possibly involved in cellular memorial processes. In the present paper, inhibition of protein phosphatase by 0.5 nM okadaic acid, a selective inhibitor of phosphatases 1 and 2A, is demonstrated to prevent memory consolidation in day-old chicks trained on a single trial passive avoidance task. Retention losses first occurred after 30 min post-learning, at an intermediate stage of memory formation preceding a protein synthesis-dependent long-term stage. It is suggested that protein phosphatase activity is involved in precursor processes to long-term memory consolidation.