Do animals [other than humans] commit suicide?

Post Reply
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:03 pm

Do animals [other than humans] commit suicide?

Post by admin » Sun Aug 28, 2005 12:56 pm

That is a question I would like some insight on.

I should rephrase it more precisely: Do animals ever commit suicide other than for reproductive purposes?

For reproductive purposes, I know that some insects do. I am not talking about the praying mantis and some spider species who simply do not have the time to escape the super-aggressivity of their female partners, who see a good meal for what it is worth, once they have collected the sperm, that is the only intrinsic value of a male, in their eyes. I know that some of those male insects would gladly live to see another day, but they absolutely cannot resist the urge of copulating and passing their genes, even if their partners do not truly give a damn about them personally. So, they engage in fatalistic sex, but not necessarily in suicidal sex. The females are guilty of homicide all by themselves.

It is to be noted, however, that the spasms (orgasm) of a male praying mantis are a lot stronger (it's definitely observable through direct observation) when the male which is in the act of releasing its sperm, gets its head chopped off than when it is more fortunate, survival-wise.

Guys and gals, do not get any idea... (but I cannot help but wonder about this physiological fact that makes an orgasm stronger through death. Nature can be plenty mysterious.)

I know that for some insects (and I could provide you numerous examples, because I have read a lot on this subject in scientific publications), suicide is even an integral part of the process of reproduction. That is, if the male is not willing to die, there is no chance that it will ever pass on its genes, because their sexual parts get attached to the female digestive track, and it is the only possible way for them to release their sperm with any chance of success. In those cases, the males will compete among themselves to be the first to jump into the female's jaws. Talk about "Mourir pour la Patrie!"

I have read so much about that stuff that it scares me some time. Why am I so fascinated with insects and their reproductive cycles? However, I bet that you would ALL be amazed to learn about how infinitely active and varied the sexual life of insects can be. It would put some of us to shame!

But to go back to my original question, do you know of any animals that kill themselves to stop their suffering or when they see no purpose in living any longer?

I have heard, but not confirmed, that the scorpio (or some particular scorpio species) does. If you surrender it with fire, and it sees no escape route, it will then turn its venom against itself rather than wait to be consumed by fire. Kind of like people who jump to their certain death from a burning building.

I have read that once, but I have yet to do some research to confirm the behavior.

Would that be the exception to the rule? Or are there other examples of suicidal behavior in the animal world?

Of course, I have also read "Le Pélican" (de Musset) in French literature. The pelican which opens its flank so that its offspring devour it, because it had searched in vain for food. That is the ultimate example of parental sacrifice that I can think of, and I find it startling that we would find this example in the animal world. It borders a religious or spiritual experience of the highest order.

But was this just literature or does it confirm in fact to a pelican's typical behavior in circumstances when it cannot feed its chicks? Could someone look into this for me? I would appreciate it very much.
Le Pélican
Alfred de Musset

Quel que soit le souci que ta jeunesse endure,
Laisse-la s'élargir, cette sainte blessure
Que les noirs séraphins t'ont faite au fond du cœur:
Rien ne nous rend si grands qu'une grande douleur.

Mais, pour en être atteint, ne crois pas, ô poète,
Que ta voix ici-bas doive rester muette.
Les plus désespérés sont les chants les plus beaux,
Et j'en sais d'immortels qui sont de purs sanglots.

Lorsque le pélican, lassé-d'un long voyage,
Dans les brouillards du soir retourne à ses roseaux,
Ses petits affamés courent sur le rivage
En le voyant au loin s'abattre sur les eaux.

Déjà, croyant saisir et partager leur proie,
Ils courent à leur père avec des cris de joie
En secouant leurs becs sur leurs goitres hideux.

Lui, gagnant à pas lents une roche élevée,
De son aile pendante abritant sa couvée,
Pêcheur mélancolique, il regarde les cieux.

Le sang coule à longs flots de sa poitrine ouverte;
En vain il a des mers fouillé la profondeur;
L'Océan était vide et la plage déserte;
Pour toute nourriture il apporte son cœur.

Sombre et silencieux, étendu sur la pierre
Partageant à ses fils ses entrailles de père,
Dans son amour sublime il berce sa douleur,
Et, regardant couler sa sanglante mamelle,
Sur son festin de mort il s'affaisse et chancelle,
Ivre de volupté, de tendresse et d'horreur.

Mais parfois, au milieu du divin sacrifice,
Fatigué de mourir dans un trop long supplice,
Il craint que ses enfants ne le laissent vivant,
Alors il se soulève, ouvre son aile au vent,
Et, se frappant le cœur avec un cri sauvage,
Il pousse dans la nuit un si funèbre adieu,
Que les oiseaux des mers désertent le rivage,
Et que le voyageur attardé sur la plage,
Sentant passer la mort, se recommande à Dieu.

Poète, c'est ainsi que font les grands poètes.
Ils laissent s'égayer ceux qui vivent un temps;
Mais les festins humains qu'ils servent à leurs fêtes
Ressemblent la plupart à ceux des pélicans.

Quand ils parlent ainsi d'espérances trompées,
De tristesse et d'oubli, d'amour et de malheur,
Ce n'est pas un concert à dilater le cœur.
Leurs déclamations sont comme des épées:
Elles tracent dans l'air un cercle éblouissant,
Mais il y pend toujours quelque goutte de sang.

-- Alfred de Musset. Le Pélican.
And going back again to my original question, are there other instances of such behavior?

Thank you,

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:03 pm

Post by admin » Sun Aug 28, 2005 6:59 pm

Well, Nekita, you may see the research into those issues as trivial, but it has been demonstrated again and again and again that scientific knowledge is like a puzzle of interlocking pieces. One piece often leads you to put in place other pieces that may have a more direct effect on our lives. Throw that piece away, and you may never know the wealth of knowledge it could have led us to. I am not saying that one should not prioritize budgets for scientific research, but it is short-sighted to discard areas of research as trivial. Life is not trivial. And all life on Earth is connected.

What I consider a waste of money is the billions of dollars that we spend on building nuclear bombs for the purpose of destroying life. If you want to cut on the spending of tax dollars, that's one area you should target.

What about the zillions of dollars spent on efforts to convert people from one religious system to another? Is that money wel
l spent?

I could go on. But the point is that there is an immediate application of the knowledge of reproductive systems in insects like mosquitoes, ants, etc. The more you know, the more you can develop effective methods of controlling them. That way, you do not have to spend so much on spreading chemical pesticides that end up poisoning our own bodies, as the pesticides make their way through our food chain. Already, scientists are developing applications to fool insects in engaging in non-reproductive mating. If it were not for the study of the insects' reproductive systems, we could never have developed those applications.

By the way, the study of the Evolutionary Biology of Sex may yield some surprising insights into human sexual behavior as well.

By the way, do you know that the total mass of ants in the Amazon forest alone exceeds the total mass of humans on Earth? Extremely hard to believe, but I have read that. At a certain level, you could say that Man is not the dominating species on this planet, in spite of our egocentricity. The insects could claim that it is truly THEIR PLANET and that we are just a nuisance to them. They are by far the most successful life forms (at least, reproduction-wise).

Also, do yo know that mosquitoes have killed more men throughout History than all the wars men have waged, combined?

Hmm... perhaps we should learn more about how "ti jo" mosquito does it with "ti mari" mosquito. They influence human life far more than we ordinarily assume.

Leonel JB

Post by Leonel JB » Mon Aug 29, 2005 2:53 am

Guy, I agree with you. Speaking of waste, I also think the Billions that we are spending to blow up Discovery almost every time??? What about Rover???

Anyway, Guy, I think that the Male spiders are very stupid. For an orgasm, don't they know about: Dieu seul me voit!!!!


User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:03 pm

Post by admin » Mon Aug 29, 2005 5:57 am

Ah... but Leonel, "Dieu seul me voit" does not lead to reproduction... and male spiders do not have the longevity of humans. Usually, they only have one chance to reproduce and that's it! They had better make the most of it, from their vantage point, don't you think?

Anyway, of all the ways to die, this may not be a bad one...

As far as the space program is concerned, I would agree that it has often been wasteful. I am not talking about "space exploration" in which I believe. After all, who says that we will not one day run out of our own planet's resources and that we will not have to replenish from elsewhere? But does anyone know how much money has been spent on the space program for military research alone? I think that only a few people on Earth may know, if at all, because a lot of their top secret funding come from the Pentagon's discretionary budget, over which even members of Congress have no say. You want to tal
k about waste? What about Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush's Star Wars programs!! Do you have some idea how many billions and billions of dollars are spent testing a fanciful protective shield that most scientists are telling us is absolutely unworkable with today's technology?

When you consider the amount of resources humans spend on military research and military applications for war, while vast populations are on the brink of starvation, you have to wonder which, of the male spiders and our politicians, are the most intelligent.


Re: Do animals [other than humans] commit suicide?

Post by Gelin_ » Mon Aug 29, 2005 9:32 am

...Guys and gals, do not get any idea... (but I cannot help but wonder about this physiological fact that makes an orgasm stronger through death. Nature can be plenty mysterious.)
I read somewhere that when men are killed by hanging, they sometimes experience a strong erection right before death, and some even ejaculate. sad, tragic, sensual...all at once.


Post Reply