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Butterflies that drink turtle tears for the salt content

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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.

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Related viewing: bees drinking turtle tears, and more amazing nature in the archives.

h/t Scinerds.

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