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BARRIE – Warming water temperatures caused by climate change could cause more pairs of albatrosses to break up – one of the most monogamous bird species in the world.

That’s according to a new study, published Wednesday in the journal of the Royal Society.

Researchers studied 15,500 pairs of wild black-browed albatrosses over a 15-year period in the Falkland Islands.

They found that “divorce” rates fluctuated over the years, between 0.8% and 7.7%, with an average separation rate of 3.7%.

However, in years when temperatures are unusually warm, up to 7.7% of pairs of albatrosses have separated.

The study found that birds were more likely to divorce after breeding failures.

When this happens, the albatross tries to find different mates for the next breeding season.

“However, regardless of previous reproductive performance, the likelihood of divorce was directly affected by the environment, increasing over the years with warm sea surface temperature (SSTA) anomalies,” the study said.

The authors said their model also showed that hot SSTA increased the “likelihood of changing partners in women in successful relationships.”

“For the first time, to our knowledge, we are documenting the disruptive effects of harsh environmental conditions on the reproductive processes of a monogamous population,” the study said. “Potentially mediated by higher reproductive costs, changes in phenology and physiological stress. “

The researchers also found that in seabirds, “harsh environmental conditions and food shortage” were associated with higher levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.

“So after a difficult and resource-poor breeding season, the increased effort and investment in breeding can cause stressed females to disrupt the bond with their old partner and look for a new one, even if they have. already successful, ”the study reads.

Francesco Ventura is a researcher at the University of Lisbon and co-author of the Royal Society study.

He told the Guardian that warming waters are forcing the albatross to hunt longer and fly farther from home.

If the birds did not return in time for the breeding seasons, their mates might look elsewhere for someone to mate with, he explained.

Ultimately, the researchers said the environmentally related divorce could be a “neglected consequence of global change.”


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