Ever heard of an albatross divorce? A new study published in the journal Royal Society found that Black-browed albatrosses may separate from their life partners due to global warming. According to the study, albatrosses are among a few species that mate for life, but climate change is affecting their mating.
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The research analyzed the mating patterns of over 15,000 albatross pairs in the Falkland Islands over 15 years. It found that, during the years when the average annual temperature was higher than normal, the albatross “divorce” rate spiked. This means that researchers recorded up to 8% of albatross pairs separating to find new mates.
Typically, albatrosses mate for life and only divorce when unable to reproduce. Under usual circumstances, the albatross divorce rate ranges from 1-3%. In contrast, during warmer years, the divorce rate seems to rise. Researchers attribute the high divorce rate to various factors.
According to the scientists, warm temperatures mean fewer phytoplankton in the waters. These organisms are vital to the marine ecosystem. When there is no sufficient food, albatrosses are likely to fly further and leave their mates behind in search of food.
According to Scientific American, phytoplankton help maintain the marine food chain and ecosystem. Scientists say these ecosystem imbalances drive the birds to fly further than usual. As a result, if a mate is late to return to its partner, the partner might pick up a different mate for reproduction.
Francesco Ventura, a researcher at the University of Lisbon and study co-author, explained that there seems to be a serious lack of understanding between albatross partners due to these travels. “We propose this partner-blaming hypothesis ― with which a stressed female might feel this physiological stress, and attribute these higher stress levels to a poor performance of the male,” Ventura said.
Recently, a smaller study found that birds in the Amazon are getting smaller in size thanks to global warming. These findings continue to sound the alarm bells for the world to address climate change.
Lead image via iStock