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Research shows breeding down among blue-footed boobies in the Galápagos

A new study published in Avian Conservation and Ecology and featured in National Geographic shows the population of blue-footed boobies in the Galápagos Islands has dropped from around 20,000 in the 1960s to 6,400 today. At the same time that breeding has declined, the number of sardines has also decreased—and past research has shown that successful booby breeding occurs when the birds’ diet is made up almost completely of sardines.

Now Wake Forest biologist Dave Anderson, the lead investigator in the study, says he and his research team see studying sardines as an important next step.

“Understanding the population dynamics and distribution of sardines in Galápagos is a logical follow-up project—essentially nothing is known at present,” Anderson told National Geographic’s Mark Miller.

If the numbers of offspring continue to drop this will create a population of birds in about ten years “that are not so old that they up and die, but are too old to breed effectively,” Anderson said. “A lot of 70-year-old humans would be an apt analogy.”

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