Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Hybridization and cuckoldry between Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses

Genevieve Jones (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Antarctic Science on a hybrid Black-browed x Grey-headed Albatross at Marion Island.

“A vagrant black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris bred with a grey-headed albatross T. chrysostoma on Marion Island at least four times between 2000 and 2009 (and continued to return to the colony until at least 2019). The eggs failed to hatch in three breeding attempts, but the pair fledged a chick in the 2006/07 breeding season. Genetic sexing identified the black-browed albatross as female and she shared all eight sampled microsatellite alleles with the chick, whereas the grey-headed albatross social parent did not match the chick. The fledgling was banded and re-sighted in its natal breeding colony in 2016 and 2018, when it displayed an intermediate black-browed x grey-headed albatross phenotype, similar to a putative hybrid photographed at sea off Australia. These results suggest that the black-browed albatross cuckolded its social mate with another grey-headed albatross in 2006/07. The failures of the other three breeding attempts at the egg stage possibly indicate genetic incompatibility with the social partner.”

BBA x GHA hybrid 2s 

The hybrid Black-browed x Grey-headed Albatross on Marion Island, photograph by Chris Jones

Read an earlier ACAP Latest News post on hybridization in albatrosses.

With thanks to Chris Jones.

Reference:

Jones, M.G.W., Techow, N.M.S., Risi, M.M., Jones, C.W., Hagens, Q.A., Taylor, F. & Ryan, P.G. 2019.  Hybridization and cuckoldry between black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses.  Antarctic Science doi.org/10.1017/S0954102019000506.

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John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 December 2019

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