“Shy” albatrosses would rather get a divorce than fight to save their marriage

Monogamous southern hemisphere greater albatrosses are not immune to separation, more predictable in “shy” males who prefer to avoid confrontation with a competing male, according to a study Wednesday, according to a study Wednesday.

“We show for the first time in a wild animal species an association between personality and divorce,” Ruijiao Sun, first author of the study, published in the Biology Letters of the British Royal Society, told AFP.

Diomedea Exulans, the great screaming abatross, is nonetheless a paragon of loyalty. Divorces are “very rare” there, at a rate of around 13 percent of the population, which the ecologist, who is doing his doctorate at the American Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography, examined.

If 90% of birds are monogamous, swifts are all without exception. But even for the latter, life as a couple is not going smoothly.

Studies have identified an “adaptive” regime of divorce, in technical jargon, motivated by the eternal imperative of procreation. “For example, if a bird finds that its chances of breeding with a certain mate are too low, it may look for another,” says Ruijiao Sun. One study discovered such behavior in the black-browed albatross.

Nothing like that here. On the other hand, the person’s more or less shy personality is “one of the factors that predicts divorce,” marine biologist Stéphanie Jenouvrier, co-author of the study, told AFP. In this case, a “shy” albatross is up to twice as likely to divorce than a “bold” albatross.

To verify and explain this, the researchers relied on a database, unique in the world, set up by the Center for Biological Studies in Chizé, which depends on the University of La Rochelle, and the French Polar Institute Paul-Emile Victor.

Since 1959, its members have chronicled the tribulations of a colony of large albatrosses established on Possession Island in the frigid waters of the Crozet Archipelago, one of France’s Southern and Antarctic Territories.

“We call them with a number and we make a map with the location of their nest every year, they are not shy and if we approach slowly we can make many observations,” says Stéphanie Jenouvrier, who has worked for the center for a long time Chize .

personality factor

Researchers can “reconstruct the entire history of these birds,” from their birth to their disappearance, she explains.

Because Diomedea Exulans, which can live up to 50 years, has its habits. Once as a pair, it breeds “every two years because it takes a year to raise its only young before taking a year off, but separately before the pair reunites,” explains Ruijiao Sun.

And this is where it gets complicated. Thanks to their wings with a span of more than three meters, males and females glide several hundred kilometers a day over the waters of the southern Indian Ocean for months. But in certain areas, males are farther south than females, trolling for food in waters more frequented by trawlers. And that’s where “the albatross sinks when it tries to catch the bait,” explains Stéphanie Jenouvrier.

As a result, the Greater Albatross population is predominantly male, with a certain number of widowers apparently not intending to remain so for long. This is where the personality factor comes into play. The researchers measured almost 2,000 people over ten years with a reaction scale of up to five meters to the approach of a human being. From the “boldest” who ignore the intruder, to the “most shy” who leave the nest, which happens very rarely.

“Some are very brave, some are very shy, and most are in between,” Ruijiao Sun said. By cross-referencing these measures with those of the divorce rate, the researchers concluded that “shy men are more likely to divorce than bold men.” A shy man in a relationship will prefer to twirl the English way rather than confront a widower who needs the company of the opposite sex.

However, the personality of the protagonists does not explain everything. “Other factors play a role, notes Stéphanie Jenouvrier, people who are in a long-term relationship are less likely to divorce than young couples”…

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