Vampire Bats: Blood-sucking Creatures of the Night
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Vampire Bats: Blood-sucking Creatures of the Night

Vampire bats are the only known bats to drink blood from warm-blooded animals.

Vampire bats are the only bats known to feed mainly on blood, a feeding behavior known as hematophagy, frequently found across the jungles of Central and South America. The vampire bat is in reality not as terrifying as it is perceived to be by the superstitious folk, a savage beast with an insatiable appetite, and the general aversion toward these virtually harmless creatures was amplified upon the release of the movie Dracula, adapted from Bram Stoker’s eponymous novel.

vampire bat

The vampire bat

The vampire bat’s average size measures at around 9 cm while their wingspan is approximately 18 cm. They are observed to move on the ground as well as in the air, a trait mandatory in its hunt for blood, as they approach their prey on all fours upon landing. Vampire bats possess fewer teeth than their peers, due to the fact that their diet does not involve any chewing, though their teeth are sharp enough to tear through an animal’s skin, such as that of cattle, horses or any other domestic animals they could find easily, though there are reports of people actually being fed on. The vampire bat is capable of finding prey by echolocation like all bats do as well as their keen sense of hearing and smell, and upon tracking down prey, they would then switch to built-in heat sensors on their noses in order to locate a suitable spot to place a bite where blood is coursing through the victim’s veins beneath the skin. Its saliva is adapted to promote prolonged bleeding, giving off enough blood to nourish the vampire bat, such that one of its main constituents, an anticoagulant named Draculin, inhibits blood clotting. The vampire bat then laps up the flowing blood usually for around 30 minutes, not enough to seriously harm its victims, though its bites are known to cause particularly severe infections and illnesses, such as rabies.

Vampire bats could not survive without food for more than two to three nights, unlike other blood-sucking animals such as the leech and mosquito, which is why they are among the few warm-blooded animals with a sense of altruism to share their food with others in dire need of it. Also, they are supposedly the only mammal to adopt stray pups (baby vampire bats) other than, of course, humans. Pups do not feed on blood like the adults do; instead they feed on milk produced by the mammary glands of their mothers. They could even feed off milk from their mothers while airborne.

References:

1. http://www.romow.com/tech-blog/the-common-vampire-bat-facts-and-identification/

2. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/common-vampire-bat.html

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Comments (2)

Wonderful article! I am glad to know they are not as scary as we make them out to be but they still look pretty gruesome to me! I did watch a program about them once, they were sucking blood from the heels of cattle and horses. When they popped up from their feed their faces were covered with blood....

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