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Wed Nov 24, 2021, 09:18 AM

Climate Change Might Be Driving Albatrosses to Divorce

Albatrosses do not fall in love the way humans do.

When the birds couple up, it’s almost always for keeps. Their lives start lonely—albatross parents lay only one egg at a time, and may leave their offspring unattended for days—and at just a few months old, each juvenile embarks on an epic solo voyage at sea. They fly for months and months and months, learning what it is to be a bird. “It can be three years before you see them again,” Francesco Ventura, a bird biologist at the University of Lisbon, told me.

The adolescent albatrosses return to their colony single and ready to mingle. They touch down, find a group of like-minded individuals, and start to dance. At first, “it’s kind of like being at a club,” Melinda Conners, a bird biologist at Stony Brook University, told me. The young hopefuls are seeking a partner that’s both sexy and in sync with their own moves. Some species will sashay and shimmy and shriek; others are more muted, satisfied to simply bow and nod, and click and clack their beaks together. They are all fumbling at first, wee babes at the dating game—exuberant, but “doing it all wrong,” Conners said.

The birds ultimately find their rhythm. Over the years, the mosh pits get smaller, the duets more intimate, until they each stop dancing with all partners but one. This is their perma-mate, their ride or die, their forever bae; once albatrosses unite, they almost never break up. Year after year, albatrosses fly out to sea alone. And year after year, they return to the same partner to breed, sometimes raising dozens of chicks together, until one of the duo dies at the end of a decades-long life. When Ventura and his colleagues visit black-browed-albatross populations in the South Atlantic Falklands, for instance, they regularly tabulate “divorce” rates below 4 percent, sometimes near zero.


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Reply Climate Change Might Be Driving Albatrosses to Divorce (Original post)
douglas9 Nov 24 OP
quaint Nov 24 #1

Response to douglas9 (Original post)

Wed Nov 24, 2021, 09:43 AM

1. So sad.

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