General, Research, Technology

Why do butterflies love to drink turtles' tears?

In the rainforests of the Amazon, located onterritory of Brazil, you can contemplate a very unusual picture - butterflies sit on the heads of turtles and drink their tears. Especially often insects feed on the "grief" of the so-called shield-footed turtles (Podocnemis unifilis), whose body length reaches 46 centimeters, and the weight is often 8 kilograms. They feed on plants, small animals and even insects, but they usually do not touch butterflies - for the most part, they kindly allow them to feast on their tears and do not even try to scare them away. But why are butterflies so fond of the liquid that is secreted by the lacrimal glands of creatures with shells? You might think that they are somehow helping the turtles - partly, this is true. But the butterflies themselves derive even more benefit from the tears of a turtle.

Butterflies land en masse on the heads of turtles, but why?

Tear nutritional composition

The image below shows a frame takenresearcher Aaron Pomerantz on the territory of Peru - the South American country in which the rainforests of the Amazon are located. An incorrigible romantic and lover of Disney cartoons would say that butterflies seem to kiss turtles on the heads, but insects fly up to them for very selfish purposes. Probably all people are well aware that tears have a salty taste - they contain sodium chloride, which is known in everyday life as table salt. Like all living organisms, butterflies also need this mineral, but there are few sources of it in the rainforests of the Amazon.

Photo by Aaron Pomerantz

The fact is that the main source of salt in ourthe planet is the World Ocean. Only here salt waters do not reach the tropical forests of the Amazon. A certain amount of the mineral could fly with the wind, but the Andes, one of the most mountainous systems on our planet, prevent this. The height of Mount Aconcagua, for example, reaches 6961 meters.

This is how the Andes look from the satellite

The waters in the Amazon rainforest are fresh andbutterflies do not have free access to salt, like their congeners from other regions of our planet. Feral cats, artiodactyls, and turtles themselves can get the sodium chloride they need from food of animal origin. Parrots and monkeys can replenish the necessary minerals for life by eating clay. But harmless butterflies do not have this opportunity, so they have to look for other sources. The eyes are also relatively harmless turtles - the best option for them.

Parrots eat clay to replenish their mineral reserves

Insect feeding

It is important to note that turtles do not feed on tears.only butterflies, but also bees. But the turtles don't really like these buzzing creatures and they try to brush them off. According to some researchers, the most annoying factors of honeybees are their loud noises. But butterflies are relatively silent and the maximum they can interfere with turtles is by limiting the field of view with their large wings. And by blocking the view of the turtles, they put them at risk of being attacked by predators. But butterflies wash the eyes of reptiles.

Read also: Why do turtles eat plastic trash?

Apart from turtles, butterflies also love crocodiles -You've probably seen pictures of crocodile heads covered with dozens of different insects. Their goal is the same - they just want their dose of minerals. Visitors to the Amazon rainforest shouldn't be surprised to see insects land on them too. In these parts, the air temperature is very high and people sweat quickly. And the minerals necessary for animals are also found in human sweat. So travelers should definitely take care of the choice of clothing suitable for such trips.

You've probably seen this photo before

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On the topic of butterflies on our website there is also howat least two interesting materials. The first of them is dedicated to their wings - recently, scientists found out how these fragile insect formations do not break under heavy raindrops. The second article discusses how butterflies manage to escape from bats, which are always willing to feast on them. Enjoy reading!