Once-in-a-lifetime Photo Captures a Caiman Wearing a ‘Crown of Butterflies’ in the Amazon

It’s not every day that you happen to be at the right place at the right moment.

But photographer Mark Cowan did stumble upon one such rare occasion.

Cowan went to the Amazon to investigate reptile and amphibian biodiversity. He took a wonderful photograph that is both visually appealing and informative.

He was able to snap a once-in-a-lifetime image of a caiman lazing around with a crown of lovely butterflies resting on his head.

More About the Image

The picture depicts a snoozing caiman wearing a colorful butterfly crown.

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Although it appears to be a great fashion statement, this unexpected partnership serves a functional purpose for the insects.

The scene isn’t out of the ordinary. Butterflies feed on the salt that accumulates on the skin of caimans.

Biologically, the winged animals require salt to thrive, and the water that accumulates on the caiman’s skin is a source of salt.

Many other species must rely on similar commensalism to get the nutrition they need. While the caiman does not gain nutritionally from the connection, its cheeky face indicates that it is not bothered by the attention.

Cowan tells the Royal Society that the butterflies were collecting on the caiman’s head to collect salt.

While butterflies and bees have been seen gathering salt on caiman before, the unusual sight captured in Cowan’s photograph is that the butterflies clustered together on the creature’s head.

A similar photograph of butterflies acquiring salt by sipping turtle tears was named Picture of the Year by Wikimedia Commons in 2014. The remainder of this year’s Royal Society contest winners may be seen here.

The tears of reptiles contain the essential element, which is in short supply in some areas. To complement their nutrition, bees and butterflies may frequently swallow reptile tears.

This tendency has also been observed in turtles, as reported by BBC.

What Is a Caiman?

Caiman, sometimes written in Cayman, are one of many species of Central and South American reptiles. They are related to alligators and classified as members of the Alligatoridae family.

The caiman has a massive upper jaw, a mouth with several sharp, long, thin teeth, and an orangish-colored interior.

Cowan’s Recognition

Cowan’s Butterflies and Caiman earned a Special Commendation in the Ecology and Environmental Science Category. It was of the 2016 Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition for their innovative butterfly arrangement.

If you look carefully, you will notice three different species of butterflies, each of which is clinging to its type.

The Impact

You learn and comprehend wildlife and conservation better through Cowan’s Image.

It is an excellent way to appreciate the beauty captured by the photographer’s lens.

This image has made many realize the importance of our ecology and why we need to conserve it. Thousands of young professionals have also taken up wildlife photography in recent years.

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