In the animal kingdom, pretty much everything wants to screw and/or kill. But puffins — those flying penguin-looking things that live in regions around the North Atlantic — are special in the sense that they typically mate with the same partner for life. They're even called "soulmate puffins", which is so mind-numbingly adorable it makes my Grinch heart palpitate.
Image: Dr Annette Fayet
A new study from the University of Oxford, published today in Marine Ecology Progress Series, helps explain the close bond between puffin pairings, by demonstrating in a small sample size that puffins who migrated closer to each in the winter were able to reunite more easily in the spring to have chicks. Basically, as long as male puffins don't completely ghost on their girlfriends, it's more likely that the pair will have a healthy baby.
That said, like some other male species, dude puffins are pretty lazy. During the cold winter months, guess who had to do the real work, foraging like a maniac to prepare for the baby making? Obviously, it was the lady puffins, busting their tail feathers while their boyfriends just sat back and played Mass Effect or slept or something. We know this because the team at Oxford used tiny geolocators to track the movements of female puffins and their lazy boyfriends.
"While migrating close to one's partner leads to more successful breeding in puffins, female winter foraging effort seems to be even more critical to ensure high reproductive success," lead study author Annette Fayet said in a statement. "A likely explanation for this finding is that female puffins which spend more time fuelling up over winter return to the colony in better condition and are able to lay higher quality eggs, rearing stronger chicks."
The study analysed just 12 puffin pairs, so before you get #NotAllPuffins, we should mention these results are by no means a reflection of the entire male puffin population. However, it is important to understand the connection between foraging and breeding — in this case, lady puffins who scrambled to stuff themselves during the winter had stronger, healthier chicks in early spring. In puffins at least, this also bolsters the case for why snacking is always a good idea.
But seriously dudes, don't be scrubs.