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Old albatrosses give parenting last push

“Wandering albatrosses, famed for their massive wingspans and long lives, now have another distinctive characteristic.”

“University Of Edinburgh researchers have discovered that, despite a general decline in old age, these remarkable seabirds are more likely to successfully raise a chick when they breed for the last time. Scientists from the university and the British Antarctic Survey say that like many animals, wandering albatrosses get better at rearing offspring as they gain experience. As the birds age, their ability to provide for their young declines, most likely because older albatrosses become less capable of finding food for their young.”

“However, researchers have found that the albatrosses’ capacity for parenting improves again when they have their final chick. This could be because they raise the effort they put into rearing just before they die – a pattern that is predicted in theory, but rarely seen in the wild.”

The 30-year study, which is published online in Ecology Letters, was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), a George Macdougal Mackintosh Scholarship and the Natural Environment Research Council.

Reference: Froy, H., Phillips, R. A., Wood, A. G., Nussey, D. H. and Lewis, S. (2013) ‘Age-related variation in reproductive traits in the wandering albatross: evidence for terminal improvement following senescence.’ Ecology Letters, 16 (5) pp. 642–649. (MMU Library has a subscription to this journal). 

[Source BBSRC news: ]

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