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Is there any evidence of animals wanting to die? Specifically, animal communication which says "come and eat me".

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migrated from philosophy.stackexchange.com Jan 7 '16 at 18:25

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  • $\begingroup$ Why do you call animals wanting to do 'cannibalistic' and not e.g. 'suicidal'? In any case, this seems to be more biology than philosophy. $\endgroup$ – Camil Staps Jan 7 '16 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ @CamilStaps these sorts of things come up... obviously closes are very subjective $\endgroup$ – user3293056 Jan 7 '16 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ @CamilStaps btw in answer to your question i just find the idea of an animal telling another it's going to kill itself, more fantastic than "please kil me" $\endgroup$ – user3293056 Jan 7 '16 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand what you mean by your last sentence I like the idea that internal reflection needs to be able to express the absence of an object, if it is to have object-hood but I am assuming those are concepts of philosophy that are irrelevant for the question. If it is the case, you probably want to delete that sentence. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jan 7 '16 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ In biological terms, it would be more useful to frame this in terms of behaviour and not the vague "wanting to die" (which is subjective and/or meaningless for non-human animals). $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jan 8 '16 at 21:59
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Is it possible that an individual would benefit form being eaten?

In theory it is possible that such behaviour would evolve. An individual may improve the probability of its genes to be passed on by letting a related individual (which carries similar gene variants) to feed on it. When counting the fitness of an individual as being the sum of the fitness of all related individuals weighted by their coefficient of relatedness as inclusive fitness. We refer to the selection pressure that is due to a differential in inclusive fitness as kin selection. The field that study the evolution of altruistic behaviours is called social evolution and is an active field of research.

Example

For example, a male could much enhance the probability of survival of its offspring by being eaten by the mother. The type of cannibalism where one mate eat the other is called sexual cannibalism. A famous example of sexual cannibalism is the mantis prey. Note that it has been suggested that in natural conditions sexual cannibalism could be rarer than expected previously thought. Note also that the question of whether the male benefits from being eaten by the female in prey mantis is still controversial and could result from a sexual conflict.

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In fact there are many cases of animals expressing a behaviour which benefit their predators, although it is controversial whether they "want" it. I mean arthropods and mammals infected with "mind-controlling" parasites. For example, an ant could become host of the liver fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum. Then every night it would wait patiently on the top of a grass leaf to be eaten by a grazing animal, in whose liver the fluke could reproduce. When the temperature rises during the day, if still alive, the ant would return to its normal behaviour. Here you can find other examples.

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