New Study Reveals That Birds Go Through Divorces Too
While it was long believed that bird species mated for life, a new study has revealed that birds can also divorce. A recent study published by Proceedings of the Royal Society B draws parallels between avian breakups and human divorces. Much like humans, birds can end their relationships due to adultery or extended periods of separation.
Researchers surveyed the relationships of 232 bird species to determine what factors play a role in bird divorces. As it turns out, male promiscuity was a major factor in ending bird relationships. Long-distance migrations were also a factor in bird divorce. Researchers assigned “promiscuity scores” to the male and female birds of each species surveyed.
Male promiscuity was correlated to higher divorce rates
According to the study, when a male bird is promiscuous his female mate perceives this as a lessening of his commitment to her because his attention is divided among several females. This makes the male bird less attractive as a mating partner and increases the likelihood that the female will look elsewhere during the next breeding season. In other words, the more attention that the male bird pays to other female birds, the greater the likelihood that the female bird will “divorce” the male bird.
Males, however, have an incentive to cheat because this is a matter of spreading their genetics to multiple partners. In species where males have more opportunity to spread their seed, the divorce rate is higher. In species where males have less opportunity to spread their seed, the divorce rate is lower. The study found that species who were closely related genetically showed similar divorce rates among individual couplings.
Female promiscuity, on the other hand, did not have the same impact on divorce rates. The study hypothesized that this was because uncertainty surrounding the paternity of offspring could lead to increased participation in parental care.
What about humans?
Adultery remains a major cause of divorce among humans as well, but it is less likely to upend a marriage than it was in the past. Research shows that 20% of men have reported having sex outside of their marriage while 13% of women reported the same. However, the gap between men and women in terms of cheating varied significantly by age.
Married adults aged 18 to 29 showed that women were more likely to cheat than men. But those older than 29 showed evidence that men were more likely to cheat than women. For those aged 18 to 29, 11% of women reported having sex outside of their marriage while only 10% of men reported the same. It would appear that as men age, their propensity to look for sexual partners outside of their marriage also increases.
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