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


An evolutionary analysis suggests that selection is unlikely to have tolerated the capacity for intentional self-killing in nonhuman animals. The potential to escape pain by suicide would have presented a recurrent and severe adaptive problem for an animal with a reproductive future to protect. If the potential for suicide arose in the evolutionary past, anti-suicide mechanisms may have co-evolved, as we believe they have in adult humans. Peña-Guzmán’s (2017) argument that some nonhuman animals can suicide is incomplete without an account of the defences that result in the vast majority opting not to.

Author Biography

C.A. Soper holds degrees from the University of Cambridge and the University of London, and a PhD from the University of Gloucestershire. His book, The Evolution of Suicide, is scheduled for publication in 2018.


Todd K. Shackelford is Co-Director of the Evolutionary Psychology Laboratory, Oakland University, and Editor of Evolutionary Psychology and Evolutionary Psychological Science. Much of his research addresses sexual conflict in humans.