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Do any other species besides humans bury their dead?

Sophia Williams Sophia Williams Nov 15, 2021 · 2 mins read
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Death is an inevitable part of life, not just for humans, but for all living beings. And while humans have a long history of burying their dead, it may surprise some to learn that we are not alone in this practice. In fact, there are several other species that have been observed burying their dead. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most well-known instances.

Elephants Elephants are known to exhibit some of the most complex emotional behaviors in the animal kingdom, and their response to death is no exception. When an elephant dies, members of their herd will often linger near the body, touching it with their trunks and vocalizing in low, rumbling sounds. In some cases, they have been observed covering the body with branches, leaves, and dirt – a behavior that is often referred to as “funeral” or “mourning” behavior.

Chimps and Gorillas Great apes, including chimpanzees and gorillas, have also been observed engaging in funeral-like behaviors. In one particularly well-known case, a group of chimpanzees was seen guarding the corpse of a young male after he was killed by a neighboring group. Over the course of several days, members of the group took turns visiting the body and grooming it. In another instance, a group of gorillas was observed exhibiting similar behaviors after the death of an infant.

Dolphins There have been several instances of dolphins appearing to show respect for their dead. In one case, a group of dolphins was seen carrying the body of a dead calf on their backs, seemingly reluctant to leave it behind. Researchers have also reported instances of dolphins gathering around the body of a dead member of their pod, vocalizing and touching it gently.

Prairie Dogs Prairie dogs are well-known for their complex social lives, and it appears that their behavior around death is no different. In one study, researchers observed prairie dogs engaging in a ritualistic “burial” behavior after the death of a member of their colony. The surviving prairie dogs spent several minutes grooming the body before carrying it to a nearby burrow and covering it with dirt and vegetation.

Insects While not as emotionally complex as some of the other species on this list, it’s worth mentioning that many insects have also been observed engaging in behaviors that could be considered “burying” their dead. For example, ants will often carry dead members of their colony to a designated location and dispose of them in a specific manner.

While the behaviors displayed by these different species may differ in their complexity, they all point to one thing: a recognition of death as an important event. Whether through a complex system of emotions or instinctive behavior, these animals demonstrate an understanding that something significant has happened, and that it requires a response. And while we may never fully understand the motivations behind these behaviors, they are a reminder that we share our world with a remarkable variety of creatures – each with their own unique viewpoints and ways of making sense of the world around them.

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Sophia Williams
Written by Sophia Williams
Always exploring new horizons and pushing the boundaries.