This post has already been read 181 times!

What do animals know of death?

I doubt there’s an organismal biologist alive who hasn’t wondered if some other species of animals know of their own mortality, and if so which ones.  I’ve always thought it was the great and unique tragedy of the human species that we alone know that our own lives are finite. That of course, has given rise to all sorts of peculiar behaviors, including much religious doctrine.

Not having access to the consciousness of any creature except H. sapiens, we’re not sure.  Certainly some animals act as if they understand death: dying chimps are surrounded by what looks to be caregivers, elephants fondle the bones of other elephants, and mother primates can cling to dead infants for days.  I even  once saw a squirrel dragging the carcass of another squirrel across the quad of my university, but had no idea what that meant.  But none of these acts mean that these creatures conceive of death the way humans do.

This post has already been read 181 times!

Originally posted 2018-01-15 01:23:57.