Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling


David M. Peña-Guzmán, Can nonhuman animals commit suicide?


Affective variation from euphoria to dysphoria, best understood in humans, is also found in the behavior and neurochemistry of many other mammals. Suicide in humans typically occurs in highly dysphoric and despondent individuals. Self-injurious behavior has been observed in dysphoric and despondent nonhuman primates. In humans, suicide is facilitated by a highly-evolved neocortex giving rise to behavioral flexibility and culture. As Peña-Guzmán indicates, some other mammals also have elaborate neocortices and the capacity for cognitive insight, particularly apes, delphinids, and whales. Suicide is most likely to occur in species where individuals live in stable groups of highly interdependent kin.

Author Biography

Denys deCatanzaro, Professor Emeritus at McMaster University, developed one of the earliest and most comprehensive evolutionary perspectives on suicide during the 1980s. He has since focused primarily on empirical research with laboratory animals in the areas of behavioral neuroendocrinology and reproductive toxicology.