Today I’m going to tell you about an amazing thing happen in the nature. In the western Amazon rain forests, you can see the sight of yellow-spotted river turtles. And also seeing butterflies flocking on their heads is also very common sight. But the reason behind this is very uncommon and strange. Those butterflies congregate onto turtle heads to drink their tears. Yeah it’s true! Did you ever know that butterflies like to drink turtle tears? Most of the time you may not know it. That’s why I decided to bring you some interesting facts about this behavior.
There is also a name for this unusual tear-drinking behavior. It is called Lachryphagy. And also the relationship between these turtles and butterflies are known as commensalism. It means one species receive benefits from another species but the second species remain unaffected.
Let’s see why butterflies drink turtle tears. Usually the herbivores diet of butterflies consist with water, nectar and liquids from fruits. There is something lack in their food sources, it is Sodium. Butterflies really need sodium for their egg production and metabolism. So they struggle to get sodium and other minerals from extra sources. As the better source for the lack of sodium, butterflies use salty delicious tears of the turtles.
Turtles have carnivorous diet. So they ingest sodium from them as meat contains significant salt level. Butterflies not only use these tears as their source. But also they enjoy urine, dung and sweat of the animals. And also they use puddles, muddy river banks, sweating people and clothes to get sodium.
Sometimes you may think turtles shed tears when they are sad and cry. Don’t worry! Turtles do not cry at all. There tears do not have any relationship with their emotions. Only humans shed tears because of emotions. Turtles and all other animals only shed tears to wash away dust and to keep moisture of their eyes.
Sometimes you may wonder from all other animals, why butterflies like turtle tears. Here are the reasons. The main reason is turtle kidneys are not much efficient to excrete excess salt. So their tear contains extra salt. Another reason is when they are not swimming, they sit around and do sun bathing while their eyes watering. And also some turtles can’t retract their heads. So they become perfect sources of tears for the butterflies who seek sodium.
Not only butterflies like tears. But also bees and some other insects like to drink tears of turtles as well as the crocodiles. One of the best place to catch this unusual behavior is the western Amazon rain forest. This area has low sodium level than many other places on Earth. The prime source of salt, Atlantic Ocean is situated more than 1,000 miles away from the forest. And also the Andes Mountains in west cut off mineral particles windblown from west. Dust and mineral particles come to Amazon forest all the way from North Africa. But most of them do not reach Amazon as they are being removed by the rain and air.
According to Torres, a scientist who does lots of researches at Tambopata Research Center, butterflies do a little direct harm to turtles while feeding on their tears. “As butterflies are taking a little bit, turtles have enough tear to feed butterflies” he said. And also according to him Bees annoy turtles more than butterflies due to their buzzing wings.
As Torres says, these butterflies may be seeking for other minerals from turtle tears, even amino acid. He is planning to do a study in near future to find this. “Not only these animals, but also other animals in this region have driven to unusual behaviors by the lack of salt. Macaws visit clay licks to lick clay and some monkey species eat dirt for the same reason.” Torres said.
According to Richard C. Vogt, a researcher at National Institute of Amazonian Research, the tear-drinking scenario doesn’t appear in other regions outside the Amazon. “I have studied turtles in the wild from Mexico, Northern U.S. to Amazonas for over 50 years. But I have never seen butterflies drinking tears of turtles before.” He said.