It sounds poetic, but it's apparently true: in the Amazon, bees and, more often, butterflies, flap around the heads of turtles to drink their salty, salty tears. It's truly a sight to behold.

Really, I would recommend heading over to LiveScience to see some of the photographs of butterflies crowding the faces of turtles. The butterflies sometimes blind the turtles, sometimes making them oblivious to photographers and easier to capture on camera.


Phil Torres, a researcher at the Tambopata Research Center in Peru, told LiveScience that the insects likely reap sodium, and perhaps other key nutrients, from turtles' tears. Turtles receive plenty of sodium from the meat in their diets, but Amazonian butterflies and bees need to be a bit more creative. He suspects that the butterfly feedings don't harm the turtles, though they do seem a bit annoyed by the bees. This particular phenomenon doesn't seem to be well understood at this point (though Torres has suggested that swabbing the eyeballs of turtles might yield some clues) and apparently has not been observed outside of the region.

Must-See: Amazonian Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears [LiveScience via Treehugger]