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Night butterflies drank bird tears

The Brazilian biologist has witnessed the rare behavior of tropical butterflies Gorgone macarea, described in an article published in Ecology . These nocturnal insects fed on the tears of birds – they sat on their necks, plunged the proboscis into the eye and drank from it.

Some Lepidoptera ( Lepidóptera ) are lakrifagami, that is, they feed on the tear fluid of large vertebrates. So insects get water, proteins and sodium salts, necessary for normal life of the organism. The vast majority of lakriphagov feeds on the tears of mammals and reptiles – turtles and crocodiles, and teardrop is one of the food sources for them. Only twice did scientists fix cases when lepidopterans fed on the tears of birds. These were night butterflies from the family of erebids – Madagascar Hemiceratoides hieroglyphica and Azeta melanea moth living in the tropics of South America .

In a new article, the Brazilian biologist Leandro de Lima Moraes for the third time described this behavior, which he observed in the central Amazon, on the banks of the Solimones river. It happened at night. The female of the brood ant of Hypocnemoides melanopogon rested on a tree branch, and on her neck sat a butterfly Gorgone macarea from the family of erebids. Periodically, she ran the proboscis into the eye in the bird, and apparently drank the liquid from there. That same night the researcher noticed another ant sitting on a tree, in whose eye the G.macarea butterfly was feeding. Both birds, it seems, did not disturb the behavior of insects and they remained in motion all the time, while the scientist watched them. It is known, that at night the metabolism of some birds slows down, their temperature goes down and they fall into a stupor. Perhaps, therefore, both antts did not react to butterflies who drank their tears.

Earlier, scientists found that the color and pattern on the wings of butterflies are controlled by two genes. At their “switching-off” the coloring of the butterflies completely disappeared or changed.

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