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STUDY / Climate change is causing 'divorces' of albatrosses

STUDY / Climate change is causing 'divorces' of albatrosses

When the relationship ends, it may be because the 'spark' is off, or you may just not be able to find time for each other. But can climate change cause division?

This could happen, according to a new study that suggests that albatrosses - some of the most loyal creatures in the world - are "divorcing" more.

The study, published in the journal Royal Society, looked at 15,500 breeding pairs in the Falkland Islands over 15 years.

Albatross divorce is basically just deception, in human terms. It is when a part of a couple mates with another individual.

Like humans, albatrosses also have a difficult growth phase, trying (and sometimes failing) to figure out the best way to get into a relationship.

But after all, when they find a suitable partner, they usually stay together for life.

Only 1% of albatrosses split up after choosing their life partner - much lower than the human divorce rate.

"Monogamy and long-term relationships are very common for them," says Francesco Ventura, a researcher at the University of Lisbon and co-author of the study.

But in the years covered by the study with warmer water temperatures, up to 8% of albatross pairs split up.

The study says "environmentally driven divorce may be an overlooked consequence" of climate change.

Normally, albatross divorce occurs when a couple fails to breed, so they find new partners next season.

But the findings showed that couples were divorcing even if they had a successful breeding season.

Francesco says there are two possible theories for increasing divisions - the first is related to long-distance relationship battles, warm waters force birds to hunt longer and fly further.

If the birds do not return in time for a breeding season, their mates may continue with a new mate.

The research comes as many international albatross populations are in trouble.

Some data from 2017 suggest that the number of breeding pairs of species is just over half of what they were in the 1980s.

Francesco says that in the Falkland Islands, it is not an immediate concern for the population - but in other areas where the albatross population is limited, it is a concern.

"Temperatures are rising and will rise, so this could lead to more outages," he says.