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Responses to dead and dying conspecifics and heterospecifics by wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)

Responses to dead and dying conspecifics and heterospecifics by wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla... Comparative [“evolutionary”)] thanatology is devoted to investigating how animals respond to signs of death and dying, in conspecifics and other species. Responses to corpses often involve fear and confusion, and “deceased infant carrying” by females is widespread in nonhuman primates. Such behavior could result from “animacy detection malfunctions” (Gonçalves and Biro in Philos Trans R Soc (B) 373:20170263, 2018): corpses have attributes of animate agents, but—like objects—they do not act, but instead are acted upon by outside forces. Many or most nonhuman primates have core cognitive mechanisms for detecting animacy, but these might not resolve this paradox. Skeletons of conspecifics, seriously injured or ill individuals behaving oddly and not responding as expected to social acts and signals, and corpses, skeletons, and sick or injured individuals belonging to other species could trigger milder animacy detection malfunctions. A central question is whether any nonhuman primates learn from experience that death involves permanent loss of biological functionality and is universal. The relevant literature is mostly anecdotal or devoted to case studies, and this question is open. In response to calls for more information, I describe 25 cases of responses to corpses, skeletons, and mortally injured or ill individuals, both conspecifics and heterospecifics, seen during fieldwork on mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). Observations were generally consistent with the animacy detection malfunction hypothesis, although cases of prolonged deceased infant carrying are problematic. Also, one case in gorillas apparently involved sympathetic concern for a dying individual, and sympathetic concern might have occurred in a chimpanzee case. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Primates Springer Journals

Responses to dead and dying conspecifics and heterospecifics by wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)

Primates , Volume 61 (1) – Jan 5, 2020

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References (69)

Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019
Subject
Life Sciences; Zoology; Animal Ecology; Behavioral Sciences; Evolutionary Biology
ISSN
0032-8332
eISSN
1610-7365
DOI
10.1007/s10329-019-00735-y
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Comparative [“evolutionary”)] thanatology is devoted to investigating how animals respond to signs of death and dying, in conspecifics and other species. Responses to corpses often involve fear and confusion, and “deceased infant carrying” by females is widespread in nonhuman primates. Such behavior could result from “animacy detection malfunctions” (Gonçalves and Biro in Philos Trans R Soc (B) 373:20170263, 2018): corpses have attributes of animate agents, but—like objects—they do not act, but instead are acted upon by outside forces. Many or most nonhuman primates have core cognitive mechanisms for detecting animacy, but these might not resolve this paradox. Skeletons of conspecifics, seriously injured or ill individuals behaving oddly and not responding as expected to social acts and signals, and corpses, skeletons, and sick or injured individuals belonging to other species could trigger milder animacy detection malfunctions. A central question is whether any nonhuman primates learn from experience that death involves permanent loss of biological functionality and is universal. The relevant literature is mostly anecdotal or devoted to case studies, and this question is open. In response to calls for more information, I describe 25 cases of responses to corpses, skeletons, and mortally injured or ill individuals, both conspecifics and heterospecifics, seen during fieldwork on mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). Observations were generally consistent with the animacy detection malfunction hypothesis, although cases of prolonged deceased infant carrying are problematic. Also, one case in gorillas apparently involved sympathetic concern for a dying individual, and sympathetic concern might have occurred in a chimpanzee case.

Journal

PrimatesSpringer Journals

Published: Jan 5, 2020

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