This butterfly-headed alligator looks fabulous, like a fairy tale character

The Amazon rainforest, the largest green area on earth, accounts for more than half of the planet’s remaining rainforest. With unparalleled biodiversity, you never know what you might find when you venture into the Amazon. And in 2016, photographer Mark Cowan was lucky enough to capture an extraordinary sight of an alligator wearing a crown of butterflies.

This fantastic scene was seen while Mark and several researchers were on an expedition in the Amazon. The trip was to study the diversity of amphibians and reptiles for the Division of Herpetology at the University of Michigan. And here, the alligator with its fluttering crown has caught the attention of its crew.

Why can you see an alligator with so many butterflies on its head in this photo? Those colorful insects landed on the resting alligator, carefully collecting the salt on their eyebrows. Meanwhile, the reptile seems calm and calmly lies down on a log. For example, some minerals are scarce in the forest, and butterflies and other invertebrates share this behavior, such as access to salt, which is vital to their lives.

Although the same phenomena have been documented, it is much more surprising this time due to the number of butterfly species present and how each species organizes its group. Therefore, it is a fortune to witness such a fantastic sight. This photograph by Mark Cowan received a Special Mention in the Ecology and Environmental Sciences category of the 2016 Royal Society Editorial Photography Competition.

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