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Albatross Pairs

September 2, 2008

Female albatross pair up to raise chicks in Hawai’i.


The secret life of albatross….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Over the past 20 years os so, the Laysan albatross has been making a gradual comeback on the northwestern tip of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. But when University of Hawaii, Honolulu, zoologist Lindsay Young and her colleagues recently sampled the DNA of nesting pairs, they were in for a surprise. Turns out, over 30% of the pairs were both female!

LINDSAY YOUNG (University of Hawaii, Honolulu):
Laysan albatross are sexually monomorphic, which means you can not tell the sexes apart. And I think that’s why this behavior was sitting under our noses all along.

She says the females successfully raise chicks together that are fathered by males in the colony. And females significantly outnumber males.

And because there are not enough males to go around, the next best alternative is to pair up with another female and raise half as many chicks as a male-female pair.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.