Climate Change Is Driving Up Albatross Divorce Rates

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Albatrosses are some of the few creatures in the wild that stay faithful to a single partner throughout their lifetimes. However, climate change is forcing an increasing number of these birds to “break up”, according to researchers at the University of Lisbon.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, the researchers have revealed that the “divorce” rates of Albatrosses living on the Falkland Islands are rising as the sea surface temperatures continue to climb.


The birds are long-distance flyers and similar to humans have different “phases” in their relationships. Young birds go through “awkward phases” where they figure out the best way to get into a relationship. They then “date” for several years before eventually becoming mates.

Albatrosses generally stick to a single partner thought out their life, with just 1 to 8 percent of the couples ever separating. This means their “divorce” rates are far lower than average human divorce rates. Prior research has shown that one of the key reasons that albatrosses separate is if their eggs fail to hatch.

For the new study, the researchers analysed data collected for over 15 years, starting in 2004 about the birds’ lifestyle. This included various aspects of the birds lives on the Falkland Islands, with a particular focus on their relationships.


Researchers then compared the patterns from this data to patterns acquired from weather and environmental monitoring. They found that as sea surface temperatures rose, the divorce rates of the birds also increased.

Some of the reasons for this might be due to the warmer surface water not mixing well with deeper ocean waters. This leads to fewer nutrients being brought to the surface, pushing the birds into hunger, and leading to poor egg production. The researchers also suggest that hunger could also force birds to abandon eggs and their partners.

Cover Image: Shutterstock

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