by Woo (Jeff) Chang, Jabriel Jaludi, and Daifalla Moumani
Product 1: video
Product 2: blog post
Are funerals exclusive to humans?
Humans are complex creatures, it is this complexity that sometimes makes us feel far superior to other animals in all respects. This however is untrue. Many animals have the same level of complexity as humans in some respects and are even more complex in others. Bees for example communicate the location of flowers through a dance that tells other bees exactly how far the flower is. Dolphins can figure out where an object is through echolocation. They release an echo and can tell the distance of a location by the amount of time it takes for that echo to return.These methods of communication that the bees and dolphins exhibit are extremely complex when compared to our own. Animals can also have complex social behaviors that seem similar to those of humans. Empathy, mourning, grief are feelings that we tend to think are exclusive to humans. However, some animals have been observed to have their own forms of funerals. Elephants for one, are seemingly compassionate animals. They form such great bonds with their social groups that they seem to exhibit immense sadness upon the death of another elephant. Their funeral ritual involves touching the body with their trunks, having a moment of silence, and covering the body with leaves and branches. An elephant will even stay by a dead friend or family member for multiple days. Elephants don’t necessarily have similar emotions to humans but they do seem to have their own form of funerals. A video of this amazing phenomenon can be seen below.
Elephants aren’t the only one’s that have interesting behaviors when dealing with the death of a member of their species. Dolphins also have complex social interactions when witnessing the death of a fellow comrade. Researcher Joan Gonzalvo of the Tethys Research Institute witnessed a mother attempting to revive her newborn calf that recently died. The mother raised the calf to surface multiple times in what seems to be an attempt to bring it back to life. This can be observed in the video below. A mother is seen carrying a dead calf on her back, its possible that she has been doing this over a course of a couple of days.
Another researcher, Ingrid Visser noticed that dolphins would stop when seeing another dead dolphin and wouldn’t move for a short period of time. The dolphins would even fight to return to the dead dolphin after being pushed away by the researcher. Crows have also been observed to have their own funeral like behaviors. Researcher Kaeli Swift puts it plainly, “Crows are one of the handful of other animals including elephants, primates, dolphins, when exposed to a dead member of their own species respond in a way that is easy to describe as a human-like funeral.”
The video below shows a flock of crows reacting to the death of a fellow crow.
Death is a part of life, albeit a grim one. It is something that we must come to terms with at some point in our lives. One way in which we comes to terms with death is through our funeral rituals. Scientists are particularly wary when attributing human emotions to animals. We cannot yet say that animals have feelings similar to humans. However, it is undeniable that animals like the dolphins, elephants, and crows have notable complex behaviors when dealing with death.