Albatross ‘Divorce Rates’ Up Due to Climate Change

Known to be among the world’s most monogamous creatures, albatrosses are now “divorcing” their partners due to climate change-induced stress.
Heather Chen
Bangkok, TH
November 25, 2021, 8:07am
Albatrosses
Albatrosses are serial monogamists. Photo: AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / US FISH NAD WILDLIFE SERVICE / KIAH WALKER

It looks like Sad Girl Autumn isn’t just for humans. Albatrosses, known to be among the world’s most monogamous creatures, are now increasingly “divorcing” their partners due to climate change-induced stress, researchers have said. 

The new research, published by the UK-based science body the Royal Society, shows that warmer temperatures and oceans have resulted in less fish and increased stress hormones. Fewer chicks are surviving harsher environments, and parents are forced further apart for longer periods of time to hunt for food. 

The study, which looked at wild Albatross populations in the Falkland Islands over a 15-year period, noted a trend of birds “moving on” with new partners if their own failed to return in time for the breeding season. 

“A stressed female might feel this physiological stress and attribute these higher stress levels to a poor performance of the male,” wrote researcher Francesco Ventura, who co-authored the paper. 

Commonly found throughout the Southern Ocean and North Pacific, the large seabirds are known to mate for life, forging strong bonds that are essential during nest duties and lengthy foraging trips away from home. The birds have also been known to loudly celebrate their partner’s return after long absences. 

The findings come at a critical time as albatross populations around the world are plummeting. Scientists say that populations have been dropping since 2005 and are now declining at rates of 5-10 percent every year. 

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