Word of the Week: Carrion

Written by Science

Carrion is something immediately associated with vultures. Or hyenas, slavering over the body of some unfortunate zebra; downed by a hungry lion, then abandoned to those scavengers willing to spend time cracking open the bones for slivers of marrow; to fight with the flies for the last few rotting scraps.

These creatures come here for food. Butterflies come for liquid nutrients, in a behaviour also known as ‘mud-puddling’. Gathering in great swarms, some butterflies are attracted to carrion from hundreds of metres away. They drink salts and amino acids, with males transferring these nutrients to females during mating.

Butterflies will go to other sources for these salts, not merely carrion. If a butterfly lands on you, shed a tear or work up some sweat because they’re not here for you; they’re here to harvest your liquids.

Last modified: 8th March 2018

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