Albatrosses: Know the reasons for the rising ‘divorce rates’ in these seabirds!
Human divorces are steadily rising since 1970s in many countries of the world. But it is a surprise that albatrosses, the seabirds that are known for their sexual loyalty and monogamy have also documented a steady increase in divorce rates from 1980s from 2% to 8%. This rise is significant. What is the reason for such a scenario?
Albatrosses and their loyalty
Albatrosses are large seabirds that predominantly inhabit the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific. One important feature of these birds is that the pairs stay together until one of them dies. They are most committed lovers in the birds group. They truly mate for life. Their divorce is considered to have happened when one of the pair mates with a different albatross out of the relationship. In loose terms, this is cheating and it equates to a divorce in them.
Earlier, the divorce rate in them was at near zero percent. But a new study published in Royal Society Journal has revealed that the divorce rate in this bird species has shown a dramatic rise.
The published study on albatrosses
Researchers looked at 15500 breeding pairs of albatrosses in the Falkland Islands. They studied them over a span of 15 years. Normally, albatrosses like humans take a long time to pick their life partner. They have an awkward growing phase which consists of trying to get into a relationship and sometimes failing it. But once successful, they stick with each other lifelong.
Francesco Ventura, researcher at the University of Lisbon and the study co-author said:
“Monogamy and long-term bonds is very common for them,”
But their study showed that these birds who had less than 1% divorce rate before are now divorcing more. In recent years, this rate is as high as 8%. 2017 data also demonstrated that number of breeding pairs have reduced to nearly half of what they were in 1980s.
The reason for these splits
The rising divorce rates and falling breeding pair numbers are not a matter of urgent concern in the Falkland Islands but in other regions where albatross population is limited, it is worrisome.
The scientists strongly attribute the rise in divorces in these seabirds to environment and climate change. Global warming has caused water warming. And this has triggered divorces in these birds. Normally divorces used to occur when breeding failed. But now even when breeding is successful, divorces are happening in them.
The warming of waters compels these marine birds to hunt for and fly further into the ocean. Some may fail to return in time for the breeding season. Their partners then move on with another new albatross.
Additionally, global warming leads to an increase in stress hormones in these birds. Along with food scarcity, there is unfavorable and tougher breeding conditions. Stress further accumulates and there could be ‘failed performance’ leading to divorce. Francesco sums up:
“Temperatures are going up and will go up, so this might introduce more disruptions,”