Although animal behaviorists have documented the act of organizing “funerals” many times, they all consider it a coincidence, so are their actions an innate response or not? emotional fluctuations?
Primates never abandon their fellow humans to die
Many zoologists have noticed that primates exhibit special behaviors with the corpses of their fellow human beings: they gather around the corpse, groom it, observe it at night, and the whole herd will too. demonstrate behaviors to help mothers who have lost their children. But the most interesting thing is that in baboons and chimpanzees, the mother will hold her dead cubs for hours or even days. In 1968, the famous British primatologist Jane Goodall was the first to reveal the phenomenon. Since then, more scholars have observed and studied this type of behavior.
Elephants will never forget the death of their fellow human beings
Although the elephant cemetery is just a legend, the behavior of elephants in the face of death is actually something that baffles us. After comparing scattered research data with his own observational record, ecologist Shifra Goldenberg of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) introduced the world to the strange behavior of elephants this year. 2019.
For the death of elephants in the herd or their relatives or friends, they will stay with the corpse, touch it, and some will try to lift the carcass as if wanting the corpse to come back to life. Even when the corpse has turned into a pile of white bones, they will still visit once in a while, they will still stroke the pile of bones and especially if there are corpses or other piles of bones next to them, they still not confused.
Ants will systematically collect the corpses of their fellow humans
In a colony of ants, bees, and termites, each member has a specific responsibility, and so does the disposal of dead bodies. Many studies from the 1950s confirmed this. Worker ants or worker bees will be responsible for cleaning and transporting corpses of their fellow humans to prevent pathogens from spreading in the anthill or hive. Some types of ants or bees will place the carcasses of their fellow humans in specific places away from the area where they live. Meanwhile, termites will dig small rooms in the nest to bury corpses.
Species in the order of whales will try to lift the dead fry out of the water
In 2018, a female killer whale operating in the waters near Vancouver tried to push her dead cub to the surface. This behavior lasted 17 days and its range spanned 1,600 km. That same year, another international team of researchers showed that of all marine mammals, dolphins were the most emotional about the death of their own. The behavior of a female dolphin carrying the carcass of her calves occurred in 75% of the cases observed. In some other cases, the male dolphin will also do the job of the female dolphin and prevent the carcass from sinking into the water.
In fact, primates react very strongly to the death of their own. The same goes for elephants, whales, birds, rodents, and socially organized insects.
Animal behaviorists have long believed that animals exhibit complex and radical behaviors in the face of the death of their fellow humans, especially closely related individuals – something that that we always think only humans are like that.
Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal asserts: “There are indications that death will stimulate an emotional response in many groups of animals in some species we will see them stop eating or even sleeping. “.
Today, experts have systematically documented and re-researched this type of animal behavior and established statistical data to assess whether it is their behavior or just individual cases. separate.
They also describe the different responses of different species to death, and try to understand the motivations for different behaviors in the same species and ask themselves whether it is an innate or fluctuating response. emotions, can animals realize that all life will come to an end?
James Anderson, professor of psychology at the University of Stirling, UK, points out: “In the past, researchers have not been able to report these situations because they are considered infrequent and non-carrying behaviour. Because of the lack of specific data, the observations are said to be isolated cases, or purely coincidental.”
However, new studies have undermined that skepticism. It was James Anderson who felt his motivation began with the death of a 50-year-old female chimp named “Pancey” 10 years ago who lived in Blair Drummond Wildlife Park in Scotland.
“It was the first time we photographed the actions of a small group of primates before and after the death of a relative,” recalls James Anderson. He saw firsthand the scene of chimpanzees around trying to save Pancey while he was dying. Pancey’s adopted daughter tried to cuddle her mother last night, two other chimpanzees in the zoo who were Pancey’s best friends also couldn’t sleep well, after the body was removed, the whole chimpanzee group showed very hesitant and did not dare to enter the room where Pancey died.
In 2010, James Anderson published his first paper on those things. He was at the forefront of applying “deathology” to species other than humans. Professor Anderson read a large number of research reviews involving many different species and soon realized that primates were not the only animals “in mourning”.
In 2016, in a groundbreaking research paper, he proposed to describe the response spectra of different species in the face of death: one end of the spectrum is mechanical reactions, innate and chemically occurring, and at the other end of the spectrum is a response that has complex social implications, expressing emotions similar to sadness. With this, the psychologist laid the groundwork for “comparative studies of death”.
Animals can actually sense the death of their fellow humans. They will have a fixed pattern of behavioral responses to death, possibly selected by evolution to avoid the spread of pathogens by exposure to dead bodies. The prime example is bees, which respond to the chemical signals of the decay of a carcass and remove the same type of carcass from the hive.
Some species of rats do the same thing, once they smell the rotting smell, they will reflexively bury the carcass. However, there are other species that do not follow that logic: they gather around the corpse, caress it, guard it, and always stay by its side. It can be seen as an emotional upheaval, or a suspicion, that the fellow is not yet truly dead.
Another newly published study reveals how individual animals react to the death of a family member they are emotionally connected to. Elise Huchard’s group at the Institute of Evolution and Functional Ecology at the French National Research Center focused on the mother-child relationship because it is the closest emotional bond in the animal kingdom.
Animal behaviorists have spent 13 years tracking several populations of baboons, including 12 female baboons who have lost their offspring. The team observed that nine female baboons would continue to hold their dead cubs for a period of several hours to 10 days.
Accordingly, James Anderson built a link between the above behavior and people: “In some countries, after the death of the newborn, the mother will spend some time in contact with the child. That contact can heal the pain of loss.” A trial conducted in several UK hospitals in 2014 showed that mothers were willing to hold their dead newborns. Although the experiment was met with a lot of objections, initial results suggest that this action seems to have a certain emotional calming effect.
And so far, the studies of the “funeral” of animals have been continued in a deeper direction and have not been able to draw a final conclusion, we have not been able to clearly define the behaviors of animals. Is their movement an innate response or an emotional fluctuation?