Mr Andrew Murray kindly shared this photo
Turtles cry, and butterflies lick the tears.
Listen to find out how and why.
Music in this show:
1. Monster Rally, “Chaska beach”
2. Monster Rally, “The new optimism”
3. Arif Sağ, “Osman Pehlivan”
4. Prince, “When doves cry”
5. Elvis Costello, “Deep dark truthful mirror”
6. Spanglish Fly, “Let my people bugalú” (Clay Holley and Jeff Dynamite remix)
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A sea turtle may need a hug from you. Because why? Because sea turtles cry.
The poetic explanation for turtle tears is that females laying their eggs on the beach can’t bear to abandon their eggs in a nest of sand, forcing their babies to grow up alone in this harsh world of sharks and ships and desiccation. Yet they must. Thus, they cry.
OK, it’s an unlikely scene. But we can’t really exclude the sentimental possibility, because who are we to say how a turtle feels? But there may be a more likely reason why turtles cry.
For one, the moist, viscous lubricant of turtle tears could protect the eyes of females as they dig immense piles of sand to lay their eggs.
And this here is the perfect time to review one of the major rules of being shipwrecked: If you find yourself lost at sea, do not drink the saltwater, no matter how thirsty you get. If you become so parched that you throw all logic to the wind and gulp down the salty water surrounding your life raft, you can damage your brain and go insane.
Sea turtles, however. Sea turtles drink saltwater! Not because they love salt, but because sea turtles can get rid of all that extra salt, which is so harmful to their bodies. Similar to humans, turtle kidneys are useless for the purposes of drinking saltwater. Their kidneys can’t produce pee that is concentrated enough to excrete the enormous amounts of salt acquired through drinking saltwater and eating very salty foods like algae and jellyfish.
To compensate for their useless kidneys, sea turtles have giant modified tear glands, one behind each eyeball. These glands are rather large. They’re much bigger than the turtle’s brain. These are salt glands; they cause turtles to cry salt.
(Click the picture to enlarge)
Other animals in the sea have their own ways of getting rid of excess salt. The salt glands in other animals are similar, but certainly different. Snakes have salivary glands, and crocodiles have tongue glands. Snakes and crocodiles thus drool to get rid of salt. Sharks have rectal glands; their salty wastes exit through the butt. Lizards have nasal glands, giving them salty snot. Some birds, too, have salty runny noses, but some birds also cry, like sea turtles, with modified tear glands.
You know what’s even more weird? Butterflies and moths drink the tears of other animals. A bee was spotted hovering around a turtle in the Amazon, maybe doing the same thing. You can see beautiful pictures of insect tear-drinkers all over the internet.
When butterflies hover around a turtle’s face, they may be gathering minerals that they can’t find anywhere else. Male butterflies sometimes give these extra minerals to females as an incentive to mate.
So the turtle is not crying because it is sad. Its eyeballs are just dripping salt after the turtle has gulped its fill of thirst-quenching seawater. Hug a turtle anyway.
And better yet, hug a bug. Bugs don’t get much love.
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There’s more to see:
A butterfly and a bee commandeer each eye of a spectacled caiman, probably to imbibe extra minerals: Youtube it!
Talented wonderwoman Oliva Walch created a comic about turtle tears:
from Olivia’s Methods comic series