(ORDO NEWS) — Older animals face many problems, and some cannot do without the help of relatives.
The authors of a new study have found that the world’s largest flying birds – wandering albatrosses – take care of their old partners and allow them to be less hungry while incubating their eggs.
Wandering albatrosses , in addition to being the longest-winged birds in the world, are known for their lifespan , which can reach 50 years.
Choosing one partner for life, they mate once every two years on average and breed on remote islands where they do not have to worry about land-based predators.
Nevertheless, hatching an egg is not an easy task for a married couple of birds: for two and a half months one of the partners must constantly be in the nest, while the second is looking for food in the sea.
To collect enough fish, mollusks and crustaceans, the albatross leaves the nest for an average of 12 days, during which time the second bird goes without food.
By studying the behavior of 71 pairs of albatrosses nesting in the Crozet archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, researchers from the University of Liverpool (UK) showed that birds with older partners spend less time at sea than birds with younger partners.
Scientists believe that because older albatrosses are less able to endure prolonged hunger strikes, their partners assess the risks and prefer to spend less time foraging in order not to lose their mates.
Although the behavior appears to be completely altruistic, both birds actually benefit from it.
It is not easy to feed an albatross chick: a voracious baby requires about 100 kilograms of food “for education”, and all this time someone has to warm it and protect it from other albatrosses.
A single parent who has stuffed his goiter to capacity, but has lost a partner, obviously will not cope with such a task.
Thus, albatrosses have to become caring for their own good. And it is likely that it is this sensitivity to the needs of a partner that allows birds to successfully feed chicks to a ripe old age.
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