The fact that butterflies drink turtle tears is not necessarily a new revelation. As the Inquisitr previously reported, science has already confirmed a few years ago that butterflies are attracted to turtle tears because of their salt content — something which lacks from these insects’ diet in the Amazon.
While carnivorous animals, turtles included, get their sodium intake by eating meat, herbivores — which also include butterflies, since they only eat plant matter with a high sugar content — are forced to look elsewhere for the precious salt they need.
Which is why butterflies in the Amazon have developed the unique practice of snacking on turtle tears. And, according to the YouTube channel called World’s Greatest Animals, the insects have also developed a taste for gator and crocodile tears as well.
While we’ve known about this for a while now, the stunning sight of butterflies gathering around turtles to sip their tears never ceases to amaze and delight us.
And, although there have been numerous photos documenting this strange and — to us — endearing behavior, a new video posted last week on YouTube clearly takes the cake.
The footage, which you can watch below, was captured in early March by tropical entomologist Phil Torres, while out trekking in the Peruvian Amazon.
According to Live Science, Torres stumbled upon the remarkable sight while traveling down the Tambopata River in Peru. Near the river bank, the scientist spotted three turtles basking in the sun and a kaleidoscope of colorful butterflies flocking around them, dancing in the air as they flew from one turtle to the other to sip their tears.
Uploaded on the YouTube channel The Jungle Diaries, which documents Torres’ research expeditions, the video depicts “one of the most bizarre, strange, beautiful, fascinating things I have ever seen in my entire life,” as the man himself describes the encounter.
“What you are seeing is real. This isn’t some trick of SGI,” Torres says in the video, explaining why the sunbathing turtles are being swarmed by butterflies and bees thirsty for turtle tears.
“Looking at this, its’ clearly not an isolated event,” Torres points out in the video footage. “We have about eight species of butterflies from three different families, all pestering these turtles to drink their tears.”
The turtles in the footage are believed to be yellow-spotted sideneck turtles (Podocnemis unifilis), which belong to a turtle group that can’t retract their head inside their shells. So, even though they don’t really seem to enjoy stepping in as a sodium buffet for the winged insects, there’s not a lot they can do except grin and bear it.
“This is a fairly colorful example of commensalism — a species partnership where one species benefits and the other species doesn’t really get affected, positively or negatively,” Torres said in a statement.
The scientist added that butterflies in other areas have turned to different means of extracting salt to replenish their needs, some more unsavory than others. For instance, they have been known to snack on jaguar feces or chomp down the mud on the riverside.
“There’s no sodium readily available for butterflies in their normal diet of leaves, as caterpillars, or nectar — as adults,” Torres explains.