JAN 29, 2017 11:51 AM PST

Species of Vampire Bat Found Feasting on Human Blood for First Time

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

A species of vampire bat in Brazil, better known as the hairy-legged vampire bat, has been found feasting on a very unlikely food source: humans.

It would seem that hairy-legged vampire bats are now targeting mammalian blood for meals despite being used to avian blood.

Image Credit: Cparks/Pixabay

While the creatures are known to feast on birds, new evidence suggests that they’re also starting to feast on human blood, a previously-unheard of event. The evidence comes from 70 different feces samples from the creatures, which revealed what they had been eating.

Not only was this behavior never observed before, but many experts didn’t even think it was possible, as it was thought they preyed on birds specifically because of their composition and nutritional offering.

Mammalian blood is very high in protein levels, while avian blood is very high in fat levels. These major differences mean the different blood types have different effects on the predator’s body.

Among the three currently-known different species of vampire bats in the Americas, the common vampire bat was once the only one known to feast on mammalian blood, so the evidence that even the hairy-legged vampire bat is doing the same really changes what we know about the species and its preferred food sources.

“Mammal and bird blood differ in their composition, mainly in terms of nutrient composition. Bird blood, for example, has higher amount of water and fat, whereas mammal blood is rich in dry matter, mainly proteins,” study co-author Enrico Bernard and his team write in the journal Acta Chiropterologica.

“Studies on the feeding physiology of the common vampire bat D. rotundus showed that this species has physiological characteristics that allow higher efficiency in protein processing. On the other hand, species with a preference for bird blood, such as D. youngi and D. ecaudata, have higher ability to process and use large amounts of fat found in the blood of their prey.”

Some studies have shown that, when given the choice to consume mammalian blood or starve, bats used to feasting on avian blood would choose to starve to death. This goes to show just how incompatible the differing blood is with bats, so these hairy-legged vampire bats must have adapted very quickly.

Why have they adapted? The theories are all still very much in the air, but perhaps a shortage on avian prey could be to blame. Deforestation and hunting in the region could be wiping out their main food source, leaving them with no other option but to go after alternative sources of food to live on.

One thing’s for sure, this isn’t a good thing because now humans and other mammals alike have to be on the lookout to ensure they’re not the prey of blood-hungry bats.

Source: New Scientist

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAR 14, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Modern Animals Still Have Similarities to Our Weird Ancient Ancestors
MAR 14, 2021
Modern Animals Still Have Similarities to Our Weird Ancient Ancestors
Recent research involving ancient marine animals shows how humans and other animals still carry some of those animals' c ...
APR 05, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Scientists Regenerate Missing Teeth in Mice
APR 05, 2021
Scientists Regenerate Missing Teeth in Mice
While most people have 32 teeth, around 1% of the population has more or fewer due to congenital reasons. Now, researche ...
APR 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Speedbumps Reduce Endangered Red Colobus Deaths
APR 09, 2021
Speedbumps Reduce Endangered Red Colobus Deaths
The endangered Zanzibar red colobus is a rare primate that lives only in the Zanzibar archipelago. New research from Ban ...
JUN 08, 2021
Microbiology
Virus Seems to Spread From Salmon Farms to the Wild
JUN 08, 2021
Virus Seems to Spread From Salmon Farms to the Wild
Chinook salmon can be infected by a pathogen called Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) that is thought to cause heart, liver, a ...
JUN 22, 2021
Plants & Animals
Glyphosates Can Linger, Cause Plant Infertility
JUN 22, 2021
Glyphosates Can Linger, Cause Plant Infertility
Glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) are commonly applied to many outdoor environments, and are widely used in agriculture ...
JUL 05, 2021
Microbiology
Natural Antibiotic in Chestnut Leaves Can Eliminate MRSA
JUL 05, 2021
Natural Antibiotic in Chestnut Leaves Can Eliminate MRSA
The natural world is full of microbes, fungi, and plants that have given us valuable medicines, like tetracyclines, peni ...
Loading Comments...