Social Question

Steve_A's avatar

Can/Do animals commit suicide?

Asked by Steve_A (5125points) March 8th, 2010

Excluding humans in this case.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

71 Answers

Jewel's avatar

Sometimes a pet will refuse to eat or engage with the world after the owner dies. In that case, could grieving oneself to death be called suicide? I don’t know.
I have never heard of an animal taking steps to directly and immediately killing itself, but there is alot that I haven’t heard of!

Fyrius's avatar

I suppose moths flying into candle flames don’t count.

Steve_A's avatar

@Fyrius Haha I don’t think so they are kinda being tricked wouldn’t you say?

Cruiser's avatar

Death by fast moving cars may be their shortcut to animal heaven.

Steve_A's avatar

@Jewel I never knew that, so some pets will not eat till death after the owner is gone??

Would you say that is grieving,depression or possibly they feel lost without the trainer….

or so trained by that person in their mind they can not eat without the master/owner giving them food?

Fyrius's avatar

I’ve been told it’s a malfunctioning starlight navigation instinct. At any rate they don’t do it because their lives didn’t turn out the way they hoped.

janbb's avatar

There are those lrmmings who jump in droves to the sea and die but I don’t know enough about their motivation to know if it’s suicide.

Jewel's avatar

@Steve_A Yes. On a documentary about Jane Goodall’s chimp study, one of the young adult male chimps was so attached to his mother that when she died, he stayed in a tree ‘bed’ above her body for (I think) two weeks until he died. The chimp troop had left soon after she died, but he refused to leave her body. His death may have been clinically due to starvation, but it was clearly due to grief.
@Fyrius I just put down my 20 year old terrier. His companion, a 3 year old, stopped eating for two days after the old dog died. He refused to play and kept checking all of the places the old dog used to be. He was affected by the loss.
If you spend much time with animals, you find that they do have emotions and the ability to think. Not like we do, of course, but the thought process is well developed.
EDIT: @Fyrius If I had read it more carefully, I’d have known that you were referring to the moth thing! Sorry!

Fyrius's avatar

I was still talking about the kamikaze moths up there. Sorry if the timing was confusing.

Vincentt's avatar

“Most scientists generally believe that animals are incapable of committing suicide.

Even lemmings, which by popular myth throw themselves off cliffs during mating season, do not take their own lives intentionally.

Instead, evolutionary pressures cause them to feel the urge to change habitat at which point they migrate in huge droves.”

Aethelwine's avatar

My parents had a Chinese crested that live for 20 years. It was nearly blind during his last years and fell 10ft off of their deck into the woods at least 3 times, surviving each fall. He finally died of old age, but we always joked that he was trying to kill himself by jumping off of their deck.

Your_Majesty's avatar

Life is so precious in nature. Animals fight as strong as they could just to live. I think way animal ends its life is also assume as similar to ‘suicide’ in human opinion. If animal do that they usually lack of their knowledge/survival instinct.

Steve_A's avatar

@Vincentt So evolution is having a screw up in a sense?

Steve_A's avatar

@Doctor_D I am not sure I follow 100% there can you give me an example or something?

Fyrius's avatar

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Evolution is rife with screw ups. Evolution belongs to the “whatever, as long as it holds together long enough” school of engineering.

Steve_A's avatar

@Fyrius If that is true than most of what I have been told is kind of a lie.

Fyrius's avatar

What would that be?

There are plenty of honest misunderstandings about evolution in the world, and plenty of deliberate lies too, so that’s possible.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Some of them do make bad choices….mostly possums and raccoons ;)

9doomedtodie's avatar

You will get it more “here” :

Your_Majesty's avatar

@Steve_A Take this an example; when you return a hand-raised orang utan to its nature,it usually won’t know how to act/survive in nature(forgot the way it has to be in nature). When it finds a poisonous fruit it will eat it(you can call that as suicide),it doesn’t know what is edible what is not,different from its wild relatives that live in nature.

Another example; racoon,wolf,dog,bird,or else will drink from all sources of water they could find(included polluted source of water). This is of course would be different for hand-raised dog that has been taught what is acceptable and what is not.

syz's avatar

In my opinion, no. They do not have the cognitive ability to understand the concept of suicide. Most examples of what we refer to as suicidal (lemmings over a cliff, opossums in the street) have biological explanations.

Steve_A's avatar

This question is really for me to lead to another question I have had in regard to evolution theories,all animals and suicide.

Steve_A's avatar

@syz I have to agree.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Octopodes are known for climbing out of their tank.

Though thats not really intentional suicide IMO

Steve_A's avatar

@AstroChuck Great minds think a like ;)

OpryLeigh's avatar

I read somewhere that scientists had reason to believe that Orca’s commit suicide by deliberately beaching themselves but I can’t remember for the life of me where I got that information.

cockswain's avatar

I haven’t seen The Cove (won an Oscar for best documentary last night) but I heard a dolphin kills itself in it.

Jeremycw1's avatar

I have never heard of it happening before, i would assume because animals do not have the same level of emotions as humans. I don’t think they do because they can’t process depression and the desire to kill themselves. i guess it’s possible though.

CMaz's avatar

Commit suicide is a human thing.

Usually from thinking too much.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

It’s impossible to go into an animal’s head and determine if it is intentionally killing itself. We also don’t really know whether or not other animals’ brains even have the capability to consciously take their own lives.

But from some experience I’ve seen some animal behavior that resembles suicide. My mother had a lot of fish tanks, and sometimes fish would jump out of their tanks and die, even if they were alone in the tank. I forget what kind of fish it was, though.

Whales are also known to beach themselves when they’re still alive and unharmed. It’s unknown why exactly they do that, but there may be a number of factors. This Scientific American article mentions red tide, pneumonia and injury as cause for self-beaching. Some also believe that the amount of noise pollution caused by ships causes whales to get disoriented and beach themselves. I would definitely believe in that possibility; ships create an intense amount of noise above all the pre-existing natural noise, and whales have much more sensitive hearing than humans.

Still, I don’t know if I would call this deliberate suicide. In the case of injury or illness, I can imagine that a whale might sense its time is at an end, like I’ve experienced with dogs and cats. But it seems like dying by being crushed by your own weight seems pretty painful…

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

Clearly humans are animals. Clearly humans commit suicide. So I guess your question asks if suicide is unique to humans. NO! Many animals which live in genetically-related groups will commit suicide for the benefit of the group. In this way they can pass on more of their DNA than if they hampered the group. In other cases a sterile unit of the group will commit suicide for the same reason. Sick bees may “choose” to die rather than bring plague back to the nest.

CMaz's avatar

“Clearly humans are animals.”

Hmmmm, I think I will get my dog to drive me to work from now on.

We are talking about suicide. That action takes a need to over think and worry to commit. A thought process that lower forms of life do not have. Do not make that connection to animals being stressed.
Their only goal is to survive and pass on the jean pool.

As animals get sick or old. They get “disoriented” and basically fall behind the pack. Eventually dieing.
We just put ourselves in “their shoes” and think, “I wonder what they were thinking.” They certainly weren’t thinking like a human.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@ChazMaz: Science disagrees. Humans are animals. Most animals think and many worry. One day we may even be able to “read minds” electronically and then we will know what they are thinking. We can already do this on a very basic level by knowing what areas of the brain control what emotions and then observing if those areas of the brain are active.

keobooks's avatar

The lemmings “suicide” is a hoax accidentally created by Disney. They pulled lemmings out of their natural habitat to film a nature film. It’s actually a really sad story.

Here is the whole story.

CMaz's avatar

“Science disagrees”
That is an opinion and theory. There are no facts on this matter. Common scene is not that hard of a reach.

“then we will know what they are thinking.”
A wishful approach in order to humanize animals.

Steve_A's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish I know humans are considered animals, which is why I said in the details in this case to exclude humans, because yes I know humans have committed suicide.

How do the bees “choose” to commit suicide?

What other groups do this that you are talking about?

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

I was recently reading an article by Joe Rogan, in which he talks about a parasite that lives in a grasshopper and programs the grasshopper to drown itself, allowing the parasite to swim away and continue its life.
Suicide Grasshoppers Brainwashed by Parasite Worms

Steve_A's avatar

@chris6137 I don’t believe that is considered suicide in that case, since the parasite is deciding the fate of the grasshopper and not the grasshopper itself.

CMaz's avatar

“programs the grasshopper to drown itself”
Again a humanistic approach to describe the action.

If I remove your eyes. Did I “Brainwash” you you not to see?

It was not “Brainwashed” it’s function to stay afloat was disabled.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@ChazMaz: Science has many facts. One such set of facts is the set of scientific definitions. To be an animal, by definition, means that Science classifies the creature into the kingdom Animalia. Homo sapiens are so classified. If you wish to argue that Homo sapiens are not so classified you will have an up-hill battle. People are animals not because of opinion, but because they are defined as such.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@ChazMaz: What about Neanderthals? They had larger brain cavities than modern humans. If a Neanderthal committed suicide would that not be an animal committing suicide?

Steve_A's avatar

If you two are going to start an argument or debate about humans and animals then do it somewhere else via PM or ask a question. Thank you.

CMaz's avatar

“If you wish to argue that Homo sapiens are not so classified ”
You know what I am saying.

No arguing here. Just keeping it real. ;-)

“What about Neanderthals? ”
Different thought process then Shamu.

You are now drifting from the original question.
re:Excluding humans in this case.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@Steve_A: Bees have a brain. It is simple but the neurons function the same as the ones in our brain. When a bee turns left or right the brain is making a choice. When a bee doesn’t return to the hive (even though it could) it is making the choice to die (suicide). It does not have to have a higher comprehension of this choice.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@ChazMaz: I know what you are saying and it is wrong. If you wish to say humans have a unique characteristic among the animals (our highly-developed brains) then you may do so but it is misleading to suppose that we are not animals after all.

@Steve_A: Just ignore my comments on this. So long as Chaz doesn’t go off the deep end I will do my best to humor him *and anyone else.

CMaz's avatar

“humans have a unique characteristic among the animals”
They do. Everything else you are saying is just those unique emotions.

“So long as Chaz doesn’t go off the deep end”
A very human statement. TY for proving my point.

Steve_A's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish I see what you are saying but are they aware of that?

and what incident of this are you talking about do you have a video or reports of it, I have never heard or looked into bee suicide before.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

No. Bees are most likely not self-aware. At some point you get into an argument of what self-awareness is but I would argue self-awareness isn’t necessary to commit suicide—only the ability to make choices. If you don’t make the choice you were killed or died by accident. If you do make the choice but don’t understand that choice suicide still occurred.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@Steve_A: There is a very tricky point here I wish to elaborate on. If you do not understand your own actions then the difference between mistake and suicide must be be observed by an outside party.

Steve_A's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish Good point, I guess when you come to this point it goes off topic and there is not enough hard evidence or research I think…

but I still believe the ideal of suicide is to kill one’s self intentionally. Then I guess it comes down do other animals knowing they are killing themselves intentionally do they realize there actions will result in death?

If we are under the impression from science that most animals act of instinct (mostly correct?) that animals really would not know?

CMaz's avatar

“I guess when you come to this point it goes off topic and there is not enough hard evidence or research ”

Right. GA.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@Steve_A: The problem is that simple animals do things intentionally while at the same time not understanding.

CMaz's avatar

“while at the same time not understanding.”

Preventing it from being suicide.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@ChazMaz: This would be like saying a computer which plays chess isn’t really playing chess because it doesn’t understand what it is doing. Suicide is an action not an understanding of that action.

CMaz's avatar

“This would be like saying a computer which plays”
Stop going into right field. The human mind is a bit more complex.

“Suicide is an action not an understanding of that action.”
It sure is.

Suicide (Latin suicidium, from sui caedere, to kill oneself) is the intentional killing of oneself.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@ChazMaz: Why are you stuck on the human mind only? We need to explore other minds to answer this question. If a computer can play chess an insect can kill itself. No human mind is necessary to accomplish such feats.

Steve_A's avatar

Good answers guys much appreciated and thank you for returning on topic.

I need to think and reconsider how to ask my next question because if I can not reach a conclusion on this then in that sense if I was going to contradict a current theory I might be doing it to myself by not fully understanding this one first…..

judochop's avatar

Lemmings do jump off of cliffs and die, I read above from someones post that this was a myth…No it is not, I have seen it with my own two eyes. It is not really suicide, Lemmings are just really stupid.
Oh Looky a Link!

Steve_A's avatar

I think the myth part of the lemmings is not them jumping off cliffs and that they die, but rather that people thought the lemmings were being suicidal, and from what I watched is nature or evolution I suppose taking its course and lemmings thinking in a lemming way.

Because when they jumped they kept on going. Doing what they did in other situations,and they die from exhaustion.Not go to the cliff and say/think “I am going to kill myself”

But than that brings up the other questions of self-awareness and how do we know for sure, is it apart of evolution’s plan to stop over population?

Which I don’t know and I do not believe anyone else has an exact answer on it right now.

judochop's avatar

@keobooks As I said above right before you pasted nine hundred links….Lemmings do not commit suicide, the are just really stupid. Some don’t even jump off of cliffs and die, most die while swimming…Because the get tired and drowned.

keobooks's avatar

The whole story of them doing it by some biological drive to control the population is a myth. They no more commit suicide than a hamster does when it escapes and crawls into the heat vent.

I never said they didn’t jump off cliffs. They do so to swim somewhere else. They just don’t all make it to where they are going. They are jumping to migrate to another location and most of them succeed in their journey.

judochop's avatar

@keobooks Thus they are very fucking stupid. Case in point, end of story. Something that jumps off of a cliff without first looking down or something that swims until it can’t move anymore is pretty dumb. I think it is ok if some people want to call it suicide.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

In the case of lemmings I will chime in to say that they are terminally-stupid.

ratboy's avatar

Please stop maligning lemmings. A quirk of evolution has caused them to be clinically depressed from birth. Have a little compassion.

keobooks's avatar

Many animals are terminally stupid and will “commit suicide” by stupidity. Nobody calls birds suicidal when they bash their brains out on a reflective surface trying to defend their territory from their own reflection. They will also “stand guard” against their reflections until they starve to death. That’s not suicidal.

A snake isn’t suicidal when it bakes itself to death on a rock that’s too hot, or it accidentally tries to eat its own tail, or the stupid thing falls alseep in front of prey—and the prey chews a hole in their spine while they sleep.

judochop's avatar

Meh. You are missing the point.

Jeremycw1's avatar

I don’t know if this point has been brought out yet but just think of all the animals that are abused by people. They don’t commit suicide, they still love their owners. Wouldn’t they commit suicide if they could to avoid being abused?

thriftymaid's avatar

Interesting question for which I have no answer. We had a rabbit that would run and ram his head into the wall over and over for 10 minutes at a time. I often wandered if that was his goal.

Jewel's avatar

Well, my dog can’t masturbate because he has no thumbs. Maybe he doesn’t kill himself because he doesn’t have the means to do so? I know dogs can suffer with separation anxiety, “lie” about doing bad things by acting as if they are shocked to see the garbage can tipped over and dog hair on the couch, get angry at being left alone, have favorite people and prefer certain toys.
Just because we can’t understand or speak “Dog”, doesn’t mean that they don’t have language and feelings, thoughts and the ability to think very complex doggie things.
The saying goes, Absence of proof does not mean proof of absence. Every day we find that we have been wrong about something we held to be proven truth. And I think all animals (humans included) are complex and more alike than not. We see more proof of this all of the time. We used to say that humans were the only animals that killed for fun. Well, now we know that animals do indeed kill other animals for reasons not related to food or defense.

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