Wednesday 3 February 2016

Honeybees, ants may provide clues to suicide in humans

Date: January 27, 2016
Source: Florida State University

Could human suicide have evolutionary roots in self-sacrificial behaviors like those seen in species such as honeybees and ants?

A Florida State University researcher who is one of the nation's foremost experts in suicide is trying to find out.

Thomas Joiner, the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Psychology, led a team of researchers in examining scientific knowledge and drawing parallels between suicide in humans and the self-sacrificial behaviors of colony-like -- or eusocial -- species such as shrimp, mole rats and insects.

"The idea that something mysterious and scary like suicide in humans could have some sort of analog in animals is not only kind of fascinating, but also really promising in terms of trying to figure it all out," Joiner said.

In a paper recently published in the journal Psychological Review, the researchers theorize that humans exhibit the characteristics of eusocial species such as relying on multigenerational and cooperative care of young and utilizing division of labor for successful survival.

"Humans are a species that is eusocial, and that's an important starting point," Joiner said. "That suggests a certain set of characteristics, including some really striking self-sacrifice behaviors."

Those eusocial behaviors, understood as part of what is called inclusive fitness in evolutionary biology, are adaptive.

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