Rare Swan 'Divorce' Puzzles Researchers

Once thought of as pillars of monogamy in the animal kingdom, it appears the flame of love can burn out for swans as well. For the first time in 40 years, after following some 4 thousand swans at a reserve in the UK, researchers discovered one formerly blissful pair had called it quits. The bonds of instinct-driven matrimony were apparently not enough to keep the literal lovebirds together. While the split may not make headlines in the tabloids, it has stumped researchers who observed the swan drama--and it all plays out like some sort of avian soap opera.Veterinarians at the Slimbridge reserve, who are responsible for keeping track of the coupling swans, were saddened when a male, Sarind, returned from the winter migration without his longtime companion, Saruna. In her place, Sarind was accompanied by a new female. Researchers feared the worst for Saruna. It is not uncommon for swans to find new partners after the other dies.

Julia Newth, a researcher from Slimbridge:

While both are alive, they will try to keep together. If they change partners, it is usually a result of the death of one of them, not by choice.

But then something happened that researchers describe as "bizarre."

Saruna was seen returning to the reserve with a brand new male in tow.

After observing the two new couples, the experts concluded that the former relationship was over and that they had both moved on, according to a report from the BBC. Not only that, the couple didn't seem to be on honking terms. Observers stated that it seemed like Sarind and Saruna didn't even recognized each other despite sharing the same corner of a small pond on the reserve.

Researchers are puzzled by the break, particularly because swans, almost without fail, demonstrate "true loyalties and long relationships." This 'divorce' phenomena hasn't been observed in these swans for nearly 40 years.

After a fair amount of head-scratching, Newth and others are trying to make sense of it all:

One possible reason is the inability to reproduce, since they had been together two years, but never had offspring. But it is difficult to say why for sure.

While it may be confounding to some why this once happy pair called it quits, it's almost comforting to know that swans are capable of amicably moving on. Perhaps 'divorce' in the swan world is so rare not because of some hardwired instinct of monogamy, but instead it's been love keeping the rest of them together after all.

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Tags: Birds | England | Evolution | Weddings

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