Albatrosses divorcing more often because of climate change

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Black-browed albatross

The albatross is known for its high fidelity in relation to their “marriages”. They stick around. They don’t give up like humans. But things are changing because of climate change.

Black-browed albatross

Black-browed albatross. Photo: Pixabay

Breeding pairs of albatrosses are capable of bonding for decades. However, a study has demonstrated that the rate of albatross divorce rises significantly after breeding seasons that coincide with abnormally high sea surface temperatures.

The research study looked at the black-browed albatross a.k.a. ‘mollymawks’. The scientists focused on five sub-colonies of thousands of pairs which congregate on the Falkland Islands annually.

Since 2003 the average annual rate of divorce had been 3.7%. It varied between 0.8%-7.7%. In the years when the temperatures were unusually high divorce rates increased significantly. It is suggested that the reason is that it is harder to raise chicks because marine heatwaves are linked to food scarcity.

Franco Ventura, the lead author of the study, from Lisbon University, said: “Environmentally driven divorce may represent an overlooked consequence of global [climate] change”.

The study is published on Proceedings of the Royal Society B. One of the keys to whether a pair stick together is their success in reproduction. The study found that albatrosses were about five times more likely to divorce after breeding failures.

My thanks to The Times newspaper report.

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