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Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears, Scientists Confirm

Butterflies gather around turtles in order to drink their tears, according to recent research conducted by scientists in the Amazon rain forest.

Phil Torres, a scientist who works at the Tambopata Research Center in Peru, revealed that butterflies are attracted to the turtles’ tears due to the fact that they possess salt, which is rare in the western Amazon. Salt is high in turtles because of their diet, which is mostly carnivorous.

Geoff Gallice, a graduate student of entomology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, also added that butterflies also get their salt from animal urine, puddles, river banks, sweaty clothes and people.

The reason why butterflies are starved of sodium in the area is because it is located 1,000 miles away from the Atlantic, and the Andes Mountains blocks most of these particles that blow over.

Torres is still unclear whether or not turtles know that they are assisting the butterflies. Gallice remarked, “”The turtles have enough tears to feed the butterflies simply because the butterflies are taking so little. They simply uptake salts through a process similar to absorption by placing the proboscis on the salt-laden [tears] and passively ‘feed.'”

Butterflies might also be mining for different minerals inside turtles’ tears, with Torres explaining that he now plans to study the insect even further.

He remarked, “Potentially, they could be getting other resources out of those eyeballs that we don’t even know about. Basically, we have to go start swabbing turtle eyeballs and see what we get.”

However, Richard C. Vogt, a scientist at the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil, voiced his surprise at the results. He noted, “”I have been studying turtles in the wild — from the northern U.S., Mexico and Amazonas — for over 50 years and have never seen butterflies drinking tears of turtles.”

[Image via Richard Bartz & Andy Mitchell/Wikimedia]