Southern rockhopper penguins mate for life, but when biologists used light-based geolocators to track their behavior they found that pairs only spent about 20 to 30 days together each year–just enough time to mate and lay eggs.

The birds checked in with each other at night during the 2 months they were raising a chick, but they spent the rest of the year foraging, separated by hundreds of miles of open ocean.

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They’re not trying to avoid one another: The data showed that mated pairs hunted in the same area throughout the winter months. But females leave the breeding grounds a week sooner and return a week later than males. Since the ocean is vast, they’re unlikely to run into one another out there. Easier to meet back at the nest, next year.

[Thiebot et al. 2015]

Image by Liam Quinn via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0


Contact the author at diane@io9.com.

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