Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Oldies do it better? Parental age, experience and historical reproductive success in Wandering Albatrosses on Marion Island

Genevieve Jones and colleagues (DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa) write in the journal Polar Biology on the effects of age and experience on breeding ability in Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans on South Africa’s Marion Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Growth and survival of altricial young are influenced by their parents’ abilities to invest in a breeding attempt.  As a result, chick growth and survival in one breeding season may be indicative of their parents’ long-term reproductive potential.  To determine whether variation in long-term reproductive success is driven by differential breeding investment, parental care and chick growth in wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) were correlated with parental historical reproductive success.  Effects of age and breeding experience (determined from past breeding attempts) and pre-laying body condition (mass–size indices) on chick growth and survival also were tested.  Longer brooding of chicks increased their survival, but length of chick brooding did not differ between historically unproductive and successful breeders.  Past reproductive success also was not correlated with chick growth rates or fledging mass or size.  Chick brooding period, chick growth rates, final mass and size were independent of parental body condition.  Older and more experienced parents brooded chicks for longer and their chicks grew faster, supporting previous findings that breeding competence is a learnt skill.  Chick care and growth characteristics differed more between than within pairs, suggesting that differences in these characteristics are driven by variation among pairs."

Genevieve Jones with Wandering Albatrosses on Marion Island

Clíck here to read of Genevieve's PhD on Marion's Wanderers.


Jones, M.G.W., Dilley, B.J., Hagens, Q.A., Louw, H., Mertz, E.M., Visser, P. & Ryan, P.G. 2014.  The effect of parental age, experience and historical reproductive success on wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) chick growth and survival.  Polar Biology.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 August 2014