Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Krishna: People claim so many things. They say dolphins commit suicide; dogs commit suicide when their masters die or leave them. 

The picture is complicated for animals. For an act to be classified as a suicide, the agent must know that what it is doing will end its life. That kind of abstract thinking is probably out of the range of animals — even advanced ones.

It's more likely that animals will inadvertently terminate their own lives when depressed or lonely. Highly bonded animals change their behaviour when they lose a companion. For example, dogs in such situations sometimes go into depression and reject food and attention until they eventually die. The inactivity caused by depression is not the same as suicide, even though it may lead to death.

Self-destruction in the natural world is fairly common. Pea aphids will literally blow themselves up when threatened by a lady bug, scattering and protecting their brethren and sometimes even killing the lady bug. While this may not be suicide in the human sense, it shows how preservation of the community may mean destruction of the individual.


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