In news that will no doubt devastate romantics everywhere, I regret to inform you that the love stories of countless albatrosses are being ripped apart.
Usually, when an albatross has found that special someone, they will generally stick by each other’s sides until their dying day, with ‘divorce’ rates sitting at just 1% to 3%. It will perhaps come as no surprise that this is far lower than rates among we humans, with UK divorce rate estimated to be around 42%.
Of course, albatross divorces don’t tend to be played on in the courtroom. Divorce here refers to when one of the birds cheats on the other, severing their monogamous bond.
Normally, albatross couples would only call it quits in cases where their union hadn’t produced a baby chick. However, as per a new study published in the Royal Society Journal, warmer water temperatures could be contributing to rising divorce rates among albatrosses, with ‘environmentally-driven divorce’ being a potential ‘overlooked consequence’ of climate change.
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Over the course of fifteen years, scientists monitored 15,500 breeding pairs in the Falkland Islands and discovered that as many as 8% of albatross couples parted ways in the years with warmer water temperatures.
Study co-author Dr Francesco Ventura, who works as a researcher at the University of Lisbon, has said there could be two potential reasons for the hike in albatross break-ups.
The first reason is connected to challenges involved with long-distance relationships, something many human couples can understand all too well.
With rising sea temperatures, birds have to fly further afield and for longer distances in order to find food, which means they might arrive back too late for breeding season. If they miss the boat on this all-important time, then their partners could move on.
The second theory is that the birds’ stress hormone levels could see an increase due to the harsher environmental conditions brought about by climate change. Difficult breeding conditions paired with less food can ultimately result in stress, with a partner’s supposed ‘poor performance’ sometimes being enough to spark divorce proceedings.
Data taken from 2017 shows that the number of breeding pairs of albatrosses is slightly more than half of those recorded back in the 1980s. Although not currently regarded as cause for concern, drops in other populations have caused scientists worry.
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