Climate change could be leading to more albatross 'divorces', study says

Couples can break up because the flame of love has gone out, or because the partners simply can’t find time to be together.

But can climate change lead to breakups?

In the world of albatrosses, it can be.

These birds, extremely faithful compared to other animals, are “divorcing” more.

A survey published in the scientific journal of the Royal Society analyzed the situation of 15. breeding couples in the Falkland Islands during 15 years.

In human terms, albatross “divorce” is basically… betrayal. It means that one of the partners mates with a third individual.

Like humans, these birds also have romantic trajectories made of setbacks and attempts —and sometimes failures — to figure out the best way to enter a relationship.

But in the end, when they find a good match, they are usually together for life.

Historically, only 1% of albatrosses become they separate after this marriage, a much lower percentage than between humans from countries like Brazil and the United Kingdom.

“Monogamy and long-term bonds are very common for them (albatrosses)”, he says Francesco Ventura, a researcher at the University of Lisbon and co-author of the study.

But in the years analyzed by the study, in which warming water was observed, up to 8% of albatross pairs separated.

‘Environmentally motivated divorce’

The study says that “environmentally motivated divorce can be a consequence” neg ligned from climate change.

Normally, the divorce of these birds is triggered when a pair fails to reproduce. They then find new partners for the next breeding season.

But researchers have found that even after a successful breeding season, couples have separated more than usual.

According to Francesco, there are two hypotheses for this increase in divorces. The first has to do with difficulties in long-distance relationships.

The warming of the water forces birds to hunt longer and fly farther.

If the birds not returning in time for the breeding season, the partners end up moving on with a new partner.

Another possibility is that stress-related hormones increase in more hostile environments, such as when the waters are low. hotter.

With more difficult breeding conditions and food shortages comes stress and guilt over one of the couple’s “poor performance”. In more extreme cases, this can lead to the divorce of albatrosses.

It is known that many albatross communities around the world are experiencing difficulties.

Some data from 2017 suggest that the number of breeding pairs of the species is a little more than half of what they were in the decade of 1980.

Second Francesco, this reduction is not an urgent concern for the Falkland Islands, but for other communities where the number of birds is restricted.

“Temperatures are rising and will rise more, so this could cause more disruptions”, points out the researcher.

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