"Potentially, they could be getting other resources out of those eyeballs that we don't even know about," Torres said. "Basically, we have to go start swabbing turtle eyeballs and see what we get."
The tear-drinking phenomenon doesn't appear to take place often outside this region. "I have been studying turtles in the wild - from the northern U.S., Mexico and Amazonas - for over 50 years and have never seen butterflies drinking tears of turtles," said Richard C. Vogt, a researcher at the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil.
Juarez Pezzuti, a turtle specialist at Brazil's Federal University of Pará, hasn't seen it either. However, neither he nor Vogt doubt that it happened, and they said it makes sense, as some turtles eliminate excess salt through their tears.
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