Climate change threatens traditional [bird] marriage
Here’s a reason for Republicans to finally care about climate change: It threatens straight monogamous bird marriage. According to a new study, unpredictable climates cause birds to Gingrich it up, making them more likely to play the field rather than sticking with one partner.
Birds typically bond with one partner for a season, and sometimes for longer — most birds play the field at least a little, but the ones in the study were “socially monogamous,” i.e. they shack up with a single partner even if they’re also running around sowing their wild birdseed. The researchers focused on mating outside the partnered pair (which they referred to in the paper as “infidelity”) and switching to a new breeding partnership (referred to as “divorce”). And they found that more unpredictable climates drove infidelity and divorce rates up.
The idea is that female birds will choose mates with the most attractive traits — best plumage, biggest beak, most enthusiastic courtship dance, or what have you. But when the climate is changing erratically, which traits are most desirable can vary from year to year. So the ladies are more likely to switch things up.
“A male that could look very pretty at one point may not look as good when the environment changes, because he’s not getting as much food,” says Botero. “The quality of a potential mate depends on the context.”
(h/t Steve Silberman)
- Climate Change Increases Mate-Swapping in Birds , Scientific American