Honeymoon Phase Over? Albatrosses 'Ditch' Their Partners When Water Gets Warm
© AP Photo / Lucy PemoniIn this Dec. 13, 2005 file photo, two Laysan albatross do a mating dance on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in World War II's Pacific theater. But the remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and a new battle is pitting preservation of its vaunted military history against the protection of its wildlife. Midway, now home to the largest colony of Laysan albatross on Earth, is on the northern edge of the recently expanded Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, now the world's biggest oceanic preserve.
© AP Photo / Lucy Pemoni
With a higher life expectancy, Albatrosses can live for decades and spend years on the oceans. They come on land only during mating season and stay in a stable relationship, which plays a crucial role in the marine environment. The researchers believe the rising divorce rate among these birds can have "severe repercussions".
For the first time, scientists have found evidence that other than breeding failure, the environment too can be a cause of separation among bird partners.
According to researchers, over 90 percent of all bird species are monogamous and they remain loyal to their partners most of the time.
Among these, the majestic albatrosses have a reputation of being the most faithful bird.
However, an interesting behaviour was observed when the temperature of ocean water rises.
During their examination in the Falkland Islands, Francesco Ventura, a conservation biologist at the University of Lisbon in Portugal and her team found that the divorce rate — typically less than 4 percent on average — surged to nearly 8 percent among albatrosses when the water gets warm.
The team submitted its findings in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Wednesday.
Shockingly, the team also found that some female albatrosses that had bred successfully ditched their partners during the years when the ocean waters were warm.
"The result suggests that as the climate changes as a result of human activity, higher instances of divorce in albatrosses and perhaps other socially monogamous animals may be “an overlooked consequence,” the researchers write.
The team studied data collected from 2004 to 2019 on a large colony of black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophris) living on New Island in the Falkland Islands.
Reportedly, the scientists recorded nearly 2,900 breeding attempts in 424 females and tracked the separation of the birds.
Later, they compared previous breeding success in individual pairs to understand the influence of the environment on their relationship. Their calculation revealed that the rate of divorce is directly proportional to an increase in temperature.
According to scientists, this climate-change-influenced behaviour can lower breeding success and eventually lead to a decline in population.