Same-sex pairing is for the birds, at least in albatross

August 29th, 2008  |  by  |  Published in Research News

Laysan albatross

What’s a gal to do when all the good men are taken? If she’s a Laysan albatross, she might get herself impregnated and raise the chick with the help of a female friend.

Albatross mate for life and share in raising offspring.

On the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu, female albatross outnumber the males, and 31 percent of nests have female-female pairs who share the parenting role. The unrelated females stay together for multiple years, allowing both to have turns as the biological mother.

This relatively rare occurrence in the animal kingdom, known as reciprocity, may help explain why Laysan albatross are successfully re-colonizing islands, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa zoology doctoral candidate Lindsay Young and colleagues write in the Aug. 23, 2008, issue of Biology Letters.

“These results demonstrate how changes in the sex ratio of a population can shift the social structure and cause cooperative behavior to arise in a monogamous species,” Young says.

Read the abstract.

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