Elephants honor their dead?

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http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8209

Aw, what a touching article. Those big brutes got some soul.

andy --, Thursday, 27 October 2005 18:09 (seventeen years ago) link

Well, "honoring" is a stretch, as is a lot of the "social bonding" stuff in the article. But it does seem to say a lot that they can not only recognize the bones of their kind (which takes intelligence) but are also unnerved by or interested in them (which might show some awareness of yourself as part of a species or category, or maybe even a sense of mortality; it kinda sorta maybe could imply elephants divide the universe not into "me" and "not-me" categories but around some higher abstractions of "us").

nabisco (nabisco), Thursday, 27 October 2005 18:29 (seventeen years ago) link

But there is no way to tell whether the elephants are mourning their dead – although they get very excited when approaching carcasses, with secretions streaming from their temples.

CORPSES MAKE ME SWEATY

The Ghost of Indian Elephants (Dan Perry), Thursday, 27 October 2005 18:37 (seventeen years ago) link

I'd cry if elephants could also pour 40 oz's on the grass for their dead proboscidean homies.

iDonut B4 x86 (donut), Thursday, 27 October 2005 18:38 (seventeen years ago) link

I saw a Nat. Geog. show where and old bull was dying and all the other elephants came to pay their respects by touching his trunk.

Also a show that had a reunion between two abused ex-circus elephants that hadn't seen each other in ten years, and they recognized each other right away and bro'd out again.

andy --, Thursday, 27 October 2005 18:43 (seventeen years ago) link

maybe the elephants (and chimps, and humans) are SUCKERS for caring about the dead. so science has told us that almost all species have no interest in the remains of their dead bretheren. why should this put them on some sort of lower evolutionary level? perhaps they are just hyper-realists who have worked out on some high level that once one of their fellow creatures is gone, well, it's just gone - no sense kicking up a fuss about it.

Rob Bolton (Rob Bolton), Thursday, 27 October 2005 18:45 (seventeen years ago) link

No, weepy melodrama is the apogee of intellectual development.

andy --, Thursday, 27 October 2005 18:48 (seventeen years ago) link

Nabisco, all we have may be that they show more interest in big skulls than small ones - you'd need more tests to check that one. They also showed more interest in pieces of ivory than in elephant skulls, so there are ever more doubts from that.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Thursday, 27 October 2005 19:58 (seventeen years ago) link

I remember when beavers were admired for their architectural skills, until some behaviourist killjoy discovered that a dumb beaver will put sticks over anything that sounds like running water, even a speaker playing the sound of running water. Dumb animals.

moley, Thursday, 27 October 2005 20:01 (seventeen years ago) link

This only makes me like elephants even more.

Atheist of Love (kate), Friday, 28 October 2005 09:43 (seventeen years ago) link

Elephant graveyards in Tarzan movie roXor.

Pete (Pete), Friday, 28 October 2005 09:55 (seventeen years ago) link

i wonder if elephants have elephant ghost stories.

latebloomer (latebloomer), Friday, 28 October 2005 10:59 (seventeen years ago) link

Do they freak out at mice?

Trayce (trayce), Friday, 28 October 2005 11:00 (seventeen years ago) link

It's quite well-accepted now that animals do in fact have feelings, some are even anthropomorphic such as mourning for dead relatives.

http://animal.discovery.com/news/briefs/20030811/emotions.html

"It is amazing that time and resources still need to be wasted convincing some that what looks like distress in a rat, is, in fact, distress," Greek said.

And in conclusion to the article:

For Greek, and millions of people who enjoy the companionship of animals, behavioral studies in lab animals has become an oxymoron.

"Either the emotions of animals are like man's, in which case it is wrong to subject them to such tests, or the animals' emotional lives are so different from man that studying their response in the lab is unlikely to ever yield any tangible gains for human health. They simply cannot have it both ways."

salexander / sofia (salexander), Friday, 28 October 2005 11:11 (seventeen years ago) link

That's not an oxymoron.

Sam (chirombo), Friday, 28 October 2005 13:00 (seventeen years ago) link

It's a completely hopeless article all the way through. I'm inclined to think that animals have feelings, but there is nothing in that piece that adds to that inclination at all.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Friday, 28 October 2005 14:02 (seventeen years ago) link


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