• Shyer male albatrosses had higher divorce rates than bolder males
  • The personality difference in divorce rates was not observed in females
  • This is the "first evidence" of personality predicting divorce in wild animals

Even monogamous animals can get divorced. Among albatrosses, males that are shyer and avoid confrontation are more likely to get divorced, a new study has found.

Albatrosses have been considered to be among the "most romantic birds" because of their monogamous pairings. But do their personalities also affect their likelihood of getting divorced?

"Personality predicts divorce rates in humans, yet how personality traits affect divorce in wild animals remains largely unknown," the researchers wrote in their study, published in the journal Biology Letters.

For their work, the researchers looked at data from a monitoring program of wandering albatrosses on Possession Island in the Southern Indian Ocean, which has been going on since 1959. They also identified the albatrosses' personalities through a field experiment starting in 2008.

They found the shyer males had higher divorce rates compared to the males that were bolder.

The bolder males were the ones that exhibited more aggressive behaviors when an intruder approached, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) noted in its news release. On the other hand, the shyer males tended to avoid risks, thus allowing for divorce.

"We propose that divorce may be caused by the intrusion of male competitors and shyer males divorce more often because of their avoidance of territorial aggression," the researchers wrote.

"We thought that bold males, being more aggressive, would be more likely to divorce, because they would be more likely to take the risk of switching partners to improve future reproductive outcomes," study senior author, Stephanie Jenouvrier of WHOI's FLEDGE Lab, said in the news release from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "Instead we find the shy divorce more because they are more likely to be forced to divorce by a more competitive intruder. We expect personality may impact divorce rates in many species, but in different ways."

Interestingly, the personality differences in divorce rates were not observed among females. According to the researchers, this could be because the population is skewed more towards males than females. As such, they have better access to mates "regardless of their personality."

However, this may not strip albatrosses from their reputation of being romantic, as divorces still remain a "super rare event," study lead author, Ruijiao Sun of WHOI and MIT, told AFP News.

That said, this could be the "first evidence" of personality predicting divorce rates in a wild species, the researchers said. The information could also help them better understand the impact of personality on their mating strategies.

"The wandering albatross is a vulnerable species," Sun said, as per MIT. "Understanding the effect of personality on divorce is important because it can help researchers predict the consequences for population dynamics, and implement conservation efforts."

Albatross, Birds, Animals, Nesting Grounds,
Representative image. PublicDomainImages/Pixabay