Butterflies are like the Bear Grylls of the Amazon rainforest. Faced with a nutrient-poor environment, these beautiful creatures will drink just about anything to survive. That goes for muddy river banks, sweaty clothing, puddles of urine, and of course, the ‘tears’ of turtles.
It’s hard to believe until you see it with your own eyes. Entomologist Phil Torres, aka the Jungle Guy, has shared footage of butterflies drinking tears before, but recently he also posted great video footage of the pee-drinking phenomenon, shown in all its delicious glory.
“If you never thought a puddle of urine on the side of the river could be a beautiful thing just wait ’til you see this,” says Torres, before turning the camera around and revealing an incredible sight.
There, on the banks of the Amazon, can be seen a swarm of opportunistic butterflies, digging their tongues (proboscises) into the sand and sucking up what was, at one point, someone’s spur-of-the-moment lavatory.
These are male butterflies, Torres explains, desperate for sustenance in a region notorious for its lack of nutrients.
Thousands of kilometres from the ocean, sodium is particularly scarce in the Amazon, and unless these herbivorous insects can collect enough salt from their surroundings, it will be tough to woo a female mate.
It’s a romance that requires just a bit of creativity. Pulling what little nutrients they can from the muddy river bank, these creatures must regularly dig for tiny doses of sodium.
So when a concentrated source suddenly appears – like a puddle of urine or a turtle with naturally moist eyes – the word gets round fast.
Within seconds these butterflies can drink a concoction of excess salt, absorb its nutrients and then dispose of the leftover water at their rear end.
A reminder that we live in a world where turtles have tears and butterflies drink them for the salt.
Rainforest ecology is complex, but sometimes the simplicity of a bizarre interaction is just about perfect. pic.twitter.com/Ni2E2F5CFo
— Phil Torres (@phil_torres) March 30, 2019
“Rainforest ecology is complex,” Torres explains in a tweet accompanying his footage. “But sometimes the simplicity of a bizarre interaction is just about perfect.”