Most animals show little interest in their own dead. Lions "might sniff or lick a dead member of its own species before proceeding to devour the body." ( Shaoni Bhattacharya)

On the other hand, elephants and some primates (and of course humans), all of which have larger brains and longer life spans, and are members of complex social groups, do display deal of interest in their dead social partners.

Elephants smell and touch - almost appear to caress - the bodies and bones of dead elephants.

"Swans, who mate for life, are known to exhibit droopy mourning behavior when their spouse dies. Cheetahs, if their cubs have been devoured by lions, will hover over their dead babies and howl for days on end." (Ashley Davis Bush, Transcending Loss)

"Magpies have even been orserved holding "funerals" for fallen comrades, laying grass by the body and then standing vigil....." (NYT Review of The Thing with Feathers by Noah Strycker)

Few scientists have witnessed primates responding to death of members of their group. At the risk of anthropomorphizing (attributing human qualities to animals), "Scientists have watched chimpanzees, bonobos and other primates deal with death in ways that look strikingly like our own informal rituals of mourning: watching over the dying, cleaning and protecting bodies and displaying outward signs of anxiety. Chimps have been seen to make loud distress calls when a comrade dies. They investigate bodies as if looking for signs of life. There are many cases of mothers refusing to abandon dead infants, carrying and grooming them for days or even weeks." ("Alas, Poor Bonzo," by Maggie Koerth-Baker, New York Times Magazine, June 30, 2013)


June 30, 2013


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