Research done in Falklands shows albatrosses are “divorcing” because of climate change
A recent Royal Society study shows climate change and rising oceans are pushing black-browed albatross breakup rates higher. Among the world's most devoted monogamous species, they are “divorcing” more frequently. For 15 years, researchers studied a wild population of 15,500 breeding couples in the Falkland Islands, and in effect, only 1 to 3% of couples would separate after picking a partner to pursue more romantic pastures.
However, when water temperatures were abnormally warm, that figure continuously climbed, with up to 8% of couples divorcing. Warmer waters bring fewer fish, less food, and a stricter habitat for seabirds. Some fewer females survive. The stress hormones in the birds rise. They are compelled to hunt further afield
Albatross love lives have long focused on scientific research since they are some of the most devoted couples in the animal kingdom. “There are all these creatures we think of as being super-human,” says Dr Graeme Elliot, chief science adviser at New Zealand's department of conservation, who has spent the last three decades researching albatrosses in the country's oceans.
The birds lend themselves to anthropomorphism: they live for 50-60 years, go through a protracted, awkward adolescent phase in which they learn how to attract a partner through dancing, and travel for years at a time as they grow. They usually mate for life, making a big deal out of welcoming a spouse after a long time apart.
However, they are increasingly sharing another rite of passage that may sound similar to young humans: some are fighting to sustain relationships while under stress from the climate catastrophe, working longer hours to eat, and dealing with the logistical obstacles of travelling with a partner.
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