Crying Turtles Come to the Rescue of Salt-Deprived Butterflies

This post was written by Jaymi Heimbuch

In order to get their dose of sodium, butterflies in the Amazon rainforest turn to crying turtles. Scientist Phil Torres points out that while turtles get plenty of salt from their carnivorous diet, butterflies (and most herbivores) have a harder time finding the important mineral, especially in the west Amazon rainforest where there is very little salt at all. Their solution lies, in part, in the damp edges of turtle eyes. Torres wants to study the behavior more to find out if there are other minerals in the moisture that the insects are after.

“Potentially, they could be getting other resources out of those eyeballs that we don’t even know about,” Torres told Live Science. ”Basically, we have to go start swabbing turtle eyeballs and see what we get.”

howvin/CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

From Live Science:

“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.

Here, you can see bees engaging in the same behavior:

This post was originally published in TreeHugger

Photo Credit: Lufonz


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Lisa D.
Lisa D4 years ago

Very interesting!
I never knew about this, however in the video of the bees, the turtle does not seem very happy about it!

Edith B.
Edith B4 years ago

Thanks for this post, very interesting.

Shirley S.
Shirley S4 years ago

Creatures find ways to survive. They never fail to amaze us.

Karen C.
Karen Chestney4 years ago

Nature ! Isn't it great?

Isabel Araujo
Isabel Araujo4 years ago

Interesting information, thank you.

Steven G.
Steven G4 years ago

Usually it's a symbiotic relationship when different species interact like this. So I'm just wondering if the butterfly isn't depositing pollen from some plant that exhibits anti-bacterial properties for eye infection.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you TreeHugger, for Sharing this!

Anne Moran
Anne Moran4 years ago


GGma Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D4 years ago

Never knew this - it's fascinating. Thank you for sharing.