By the age of 20, Phil Torres had already discovered 40 new species of insects, including very special butterflies, on scientific expeditions as a passionate and dedicated entomologist. For the past two years, he has devoted himself entirely to conservation science in the wonderful Amazon rainforest.
His tireless research work and organization of scientific programs led him to explore the most remote corners of planet Earth.
While exploring the Tambopata River in Peru, Phil discovered something truly unusual and special. It is true that not everyone would recognize its beauty and fascination, but for him it was one of the strangest and most surprising experiences of his life.
Phil’s Discovery, Butterflies That Drink Turtle Tears
This activity, called larifage, supplies sodium to winged insects; essential mineral they cannot get from nectar.
Insightful, he had the bright idea to capture this spectacle on film to share with the world through his inspiring YouTube channel, the jungle diaries. Imagine the surprise and admiration it will cause when you see delicate butterflies drinking precious turtle tears!
These unique images reaffirm the beauty and unexpected connections that exist on our wonderful planet. Phil was lucky enough to catch a wonderful show while sailing. He counted up to eight different species of butterflies flying by, distracting the turtles so much that they didn’t even dive into the water when the boat approached.
Butterflies always surprise us with their determination. In their search for sodium, an essential nutrient for their reproduction and other aspects of their lives, they face challenges. Despite not finding it in their usual food sources, they continue to persevere in their goal.
Whereas these turtles are really special in that they cannot retract their head into their shell like other turtles. Despite this, they display admirable bravery in enduring the thirsty insects that fly around them.
Harmony between two living serves: commensalism
This is a beautiful example of commensalism, where two living things interact in harmony. In this relationship, one of them gains benefits while the other is not harmed in any way. It’s amazing how nature constantly shows us examples of cooperation and balance.
Below is a short interview with Phil Torres who tells more about his wonderful experience. And at the end, the video with wonderful images of butterflies and turtles.
Since butterflies need salt and cannot find it in their environment, are they attracted to something salty?
Phil Torres: Yes, they go after almost anything or salty object. I’ve seen them drinking from the sweaty handles of ships’ rudders, rucksacks thrown to the ground after a long hike, dirty field clothes drying on the line, even my shoulder or neck sweating from time to time.
It is quite common for scientists to attract (attract) tropical butterflies with a mixture of fermented fish and urine, this rotten combination of resource rich in amino acids and salts smells terrible for humans, but is irresistible for some groups of butterflies.
In almost all cases, it is the male butterflies who engage in this salt-and-tears-drinking behavior, as they use sodium as a nuptial gift during mating to aid the female’s reproductive success.
How can butterflies find salt in their environments? Do you smell it?
Phil Torres: These amazing explorers use a combination of olfactory and visual clues to find the salt. Their extremely sensitive antennae allow them to detect salty resources, and when they reach their destination, they use other detectors like their little feet to confirm that the resource is as wonderful as it smells.
Seeing colorful butterflies in the mud or on a turtle can indicate the presence of abundant sodium. To attract the attention of male butterflies, it is also possible to do it with something as simple as bright pieces of neon colored plastic placed on the bank of a river, they will surely believe that there is sodium nearby.
have you seen this before? Was it difficult to get the pictures?
Phil Torres: I had the wonderful opportunity to witness up close how bees drink nectar from the eyes of a turtle, and I also had the fleeting privilege of observing the beautiful butterflies. Although these moments are rare, each one of them taught me that beauty and connection with nature are always present if we know how to appreciate them. Turtles are amazing and valuable creatures. It is natural for them to be shy and dive into the water when we approach it.
But don’t be discouraged, this is just a sample of their protective instinct. Keep watching closely and you may witness magical moments when the turtles demonstrate their trust in you. Remember that patience always brings great rewards! In that case, imagine that the turtles were so fascinated by the beauty of the butterflies fluttering around them that they simply did not pay attention to our presence.
It is inspiring to witness moments like these, where different species live in harmony.
Could anyone see this between two types butterfly and turtle? Or is this the only place where this particular type of commensalism occurs?
Phil Torres: In Ecuador, the alligator’s tears shine with majesty, while in Peru the turtles give us their special charm. I was lucky enough to take many boat trips in the Amazon and witnessed hundreds of sea turtles along the rivers. However, the most amazing thing was witnessing butterflies feeding on the tears of these turtles.
I hope to see you again one day, but it might take a few dozen more river trips.
With information from: https://www.treehugger.com/