Watch a butterfly drink turtle tears from a Yellow-spotted Amazon River Turtle (Podocnemis unifilis). Wait, what?
It’s true: butterflies and bees will drink turtle tears as a source of sodium and minerals. In turn, the turtles get their eyes cleaned. The video above was filmed in Peru by Ryan M. Bolton, photographer/videographer and trained conservation biologist. Farther below, there’s a photo in Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park by conservation photographer Pete Oxford. Via LiveScience:
Turtle tears are not the only source of such salts for butterflies; the insects also readily get the salt from animal urine, muddy river banks, puddles, sweaty clothes and sweating people, said Geoff Gallice, a graduate student of entomology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, who has witnessed butterflies flocking to turtle tears in the western Amazon rain forest.
This region is lower in sodium than many places on Earth, because it is more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the Atlantic Ocean, a prime source of salt, and is cut off from windblown mineral particles to the west by the Andes Mountains. Dust and minerals make their way into the Amazon from the east, sometimes all the way from north Africa. But much of this material is removed from the air by rain before it reaches the western Amazon, Torres said.
Related viewing: bees drinking turtle tears, and more amazing nature in the archives.
The size of a human fingernail, this tiny glass frog in Costa Rica is a wonder to watch. In this clip from the Discovery Channel’s Speed of Life, you can see the glass frog’s rice grain-sized, red heart and internal organs through its translucent belly skin.
Costa Rica has 13 species of glass frogs, and there are more than 100 species across Central and South America. However, because they are small, arboreal, nocturnal, and can live in extreme, wet areas, they can be hard to spot. Luckily, we have the internet:
Via National Geographic, this is Ecuador’s Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum glass frog.
There are more frogs and more videos about camouflage in the archives.
From the chopping of ice chunks high on the Mount Chimborazo to hearing firsthand about this family’s traditions, The Last Ice Merchant (El Último Hielero) is an engaging documentary about a man’s dedication to hard work and a way of life that has changed. (And the subtitles are at a good pace for reading out loud to younger kiddos.)
Twice a week for over half a century, Baltazar Ushca has hiked up the slopes of Mount Chimborazo, the tallest mountain in Ecuador, to harvest glacial ice that covers the highest altitudes of this dormant volcano. In the past, up to forty ice merchants made the journey up the mountain to mine the ice; today, however, Baltazar works alone. Even his brothers, Gregorio and Juan, both raised as ice merchants, have retired from the mountain to find more steady work.
Excellent storytelling by director Sandy Patch. The kid(s) should definitely see this.
There are more documentary clips and more ice in the archives.
The Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat and the flower of the plant species Centropogon Nigricans, both of Ecuador, are very unique. Why? Because without this specific bat to pollinate this specific flower, the flower wouldn’t exist. As the bat drinks the flower’s nectar, the flower’s pollen dusts its head and face and is delivered to the next flower the bat visits.
And why is this particular bat so important to this long-fluted flower? Because this recently-discovered bat has a tongue that’s 150% the site of its body length! It keeps its tongue in its rib cage and then uses it to reach deep into the flower for its sweet nectar. From LiveScience:
[Nathan] Muchhala [of the University of Miami] suspects the bell-shaped flower and this nectar bat co-evolved, or influenced each other and evolved side-by-side. “This bat was just discovered [in 2005], and now we’ve observed a very unique relationship with a local flower,” Muchhala said.
To confirm, he plans to measure snout length of tube-lipped nectar bats in different areas. If the bats have shorter tongues in areas where the local flowers have diminutive tubes and longer tongues with lengthier flowers, the finding would support co-evolution.
One more note on the video: the National Geographic Untamed Americas team cut a small hole in the flower and stuck a high speed camera in it to capture the bat’s tongue on video. It’s incredible first-time footage of a bat that no one knew existed just a few years ago.