Good evening, this is the Yellow Bird and on this haunting night here you will learn 13 spooky facts about the Vampire Bat. If you would rather listen than read, watch the above video.
- The vampire bat is not a single species, but rather a term for three species of bats: the Common Vampire Bat, the White-winged Vampire Bat and the Hairy-legged Vampire Bat, little is known about the latter two species compared to their the Common Vampire Bat.
- Vampire bats are native to Mexico, South and Central America, thriving in tropical and subtropical forests. They typically roost in caves, hanging upside down from the ceiling of the cave, but have also been found in hollow trees, old wells, mine shafts and abandoned buildings.
- Recent research suggests that these blood-thirsty Bats diverged from their less-frightening family members about 26 million years ago. One of these ancestors that lived between 100 thousand and 11 thousand years ago was as large as a computer keyboard and likely fed on the blood of giant sloths.
- All vampire bats are Sanguivores, meaning they feed on the blood of living creatures. In fact, vampire bats are the only mammals to feed exclusively on blood.
- The White-winged and Hairy-legged Vampire bats feed primarily on birds. The Common Vampire Bat feeds primarily on mammals, specifically domesticated livestock, although they will sometimes eat the blood of wild animals and birds too.
- Humans aren’t typically a food source for vampire bats, however, recent analysis has shown that hairy-legged vampire bats will feed on humans when they are unable to fill themselves with their usual fare of birds.
- Vampire Bats find their food through an array of neat adaptations. Like many other bat species, they use echolocation to find their prey. Vampire bats typically know better than to land on their host directly, instead they land nearby and crawl over to their host with their extra-strong bat legs and a specialized, elongated thumb. Heat sensors on their nose then direct the bat to where blood is nearest the skin so they can dig in.
- Blood is toxic when consumed by most animals, including humans, but the vampire bat has evolved some unique adaptations to survive on its blood-only diet. Research found that Vampire bats have a unique gut microbiome that allows them to feast on blood. 280 types of bacteria that would make most other animals sick were found in Vampire bat droppings, these bacteria help break down all of the protein in blood and produce vitamins the bat wouldn’t otherwise get in its diet.
- Being bitten by a Vampire bat doesn’t actually hurt. These bats have tiny, razor sharp teeth that can delicately slice into their host’s skin while they sleep, and their saliva contains a local anesthetic to numb any pain.
- Vampire bat saliva also contains an anticoagulant: an anticoagulant is a chemical that prevents blood from clotting. This allows the bat to continuously feed on a host. What’s the name of this coagulant? Draculin! They named it after Count Dracula.
- Vampire bats usually feed for about thirty minutes, during which they drink about 2 tablespoons of blood per night. This may not sound like a lot, and well… it’s not. Vampire bats are quite small, with a wingspan of about 15 centimeters and weighing around 40 grams, but two tablespoons of blood is about half their weight.
- If a vampire bat misses its blood-meal three nights in a row, it will starve to death. To help with this problem, female vampire bats have been observed sharing blood with other females – both relatives and strangers – who failed to feed. However, they don’t share with just any bat, they remember who has shared with them in the past, and will refuse to share with those who haven’t – a behaviour known as reciprocal altruism. Even Vampire bats need help from a friend from time-to-time.
- Vampire bat bites themselves don’t kill, since the vampire bat takes a tiny amount of blood, but what they introduce to their victim can. The wounds left by Vampire bats can become infected, and bats are one of the most common vectors for rabies – a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord, which is almost always fatal if left untreated. For this reason, Vampire bats are often considered pests by farmers.
Those were 13 spooky facts about the vampire bat. If you would like to buy Pueblo the vampire bat, or other spooky art, you can do so on my Etsy here. Don’t forget to scare this blog with your fiends and family and have the most dreadful dreams.