Scientists Say: Lachryphagy

Lachryphagy (verb, “Lah-CRIH-fih-gee”)

This is a thirst for another animal’s tears. Scientists have observed insects — especially butterflies, bees and flies — crawling into the eyes of animals. There, the insect will sip on the animal’s tears. This might sound creepy, but tears have ingredients insects can use. In particular, tears are high in both water and proteins.

Insects that drink tears don’t wait around for an animal to break out sobbing. If they did, they would never get a drink. Only humans cry when they are upset. But many animals do make tears. Those tears are mixtures of water, mucus, salt, proteins and fats. Glands near animals’ eyes — called lacrimal glands — constantly make tears. This helps to keep the eyes moist, washing away dust and anything dangerous.

The word lachryphagy combines two words — one Latin, and one Greek. The Latin word lacrima means tear, which is why tear ducts are called lacrimal ducts. The Greek word phagos means one that eats. So lachryphagy translates as tear eating. 

In a sentence

Butterflies can sometimes be seen sitting on a crocodile-like caiman’s eyes, engaging in lachryphagy.

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