Friday, September 13, 2013

Turtle tears

I am certain I blogged about the discovery that moths in Madagascar drink the tears of sleeping birds, but damned if I can find the post! Now news that butterflies in the Amazon drink the tears of turtles. The butterflies are in need of the sodium, which is plentiful in the largely carnivorous diet of the turtles. So they stick their proboscises painlessly into the eyes of the turtles to suck up the salt (which is much more pleasant, I assume, than getting it from animal urine, muddy river banks, puddles, or human sweat). The newly observed phenomenon seems to have little effect on the turtles, except to possibly obscure their vision as they are covered in butterfly kisses (IMAGE ABOVE BY JEFF CREMER OF RAINFOREST EXPEDITIONS). Richard C. Vogt, a veteran researcher at the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil, has never witnessed the behavior, and neither has turtle specialist Juarez Pezzuti of Brazil's Federal University of Pará. It was spotted by Geoff Gallice, a graduate student of entomology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and Phil Torres of Rice University and the Tambopata Research Center in Peru. Says Torres of the butterflies, "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."

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