It’s dating time on the Galápagos for the blue-footed booby. Everywhere, dozens of times a day, the large, handsome seabirds are making their highly ritualized courtship display — one reason the boobies are among the most celebrated and beloved residents of this archipelago.
While many boobies change partners from season to season, there are great benefits of long-term fidelity, researchers have found. Comparing the breeding success of pairs that had been together for years with that of similarly mature boobies that had recently repartnered, scientists determined that the established pairs reared 35 percent more offspring to fledglinghood compared with the new mates.
And in new findings that will be published soon — and are enough to turn this working mother’s feet cerulean — scientists have discovered that the key to a successful long-term booby partnership is the equitable sharing of nest duties year after year.
Biparental care is the rule among boobies, but longtime mates have perfected the art of symmetry and turn-taking. They spend the same time brooding and feeding the young, and expend the same physical effort as seen in measures of blood cells and body mass.
Such egalitarian couples, said Dr. Sánchez Macouzet, “have reached the sweet spot of cooperation, compatibility and a willingness to avoid the exploitation of your partner.”
Read the complete article in the New York Times.