Vampire bats? Yes, they do exist, but we’re not referring to Count Dracula. These little creatures have a specific role to play in nature – let’s find out what are the ten things that make cool.
1. Only flying mammal
The vampire bat is the only mammal that can fly, and whose diet consists of only blood. The male is usually smaller in size than the female. He’s very small – the size of a teacup – but with a wingspan around the size of a ruler, 30 to 40cm long. His fur colour differs, from reddish browns to dark grey, and sometimes even golden.
2. Night echoes
Vampire bats are active during the darkest part of the night, and use echolocation to move around. They produce sounds that carry, and bounce off objects as echoes, which tell the bats where things are, so that that they don’t bump into them while flying.
3. Nocturnal hunters
The vampire bat usually hunts at night. His diet mostly consists of the blood of pigs, cattle and horses, but sometimes the occasional snoozing human’s blood is on the menu too. A heat sensor on the tip of his nose allows him to detect warm bodies, and when he spots his victim, he lands and stalks his prey from the ground. Once he’s finally reached the sleeping victim, he jumps on, and uses his heat sensor to spot the warm parts of the body, where blood flows. Then, he climbs to the desired spot, and drinks.
4. Fanged and dangerous
He has sharp, razor-like teeth that he uses to bite into his prey. Because of how sharp his teeth are, his victim doesn’t feel the cut, allowing him to drink from his prey without waking them. A protein in bat saliva prevents the blood from clotting and healing, which means that blood will continue to flow until he’s had his fill. He can drink for up to half an hour and can consume his entire body weight in blood, doubling it after a feeding.
5. A nasty bite
The bite of a vampire bat isn’t painful or poisonous, but it can cause infection or disease. He can also carry rabies, which infects the livestock and humans if they’re bitten.
6. Babies drink vomited blood!
Vampire bats give birth to babies throughout the year. Parents will usually have one baby in a year, although they may occasionally have another one, or a set of twins. The gestation period – which is how long the moms are pregnant for – is seven months. Baby bats only drink milk during their first month and are gently weaned off it in two to three months. The mothers will feed them regurgitated blood to get them used to it, and in the third or fourth month, the babies will join the rest of the family on hunts.
7. We are family
Bats are social creatures and live in colonies, ranging in size from 25 to 100 bats. In extremely rare cases, some colonies can consist of up to 1,000 bats! If one of the bats in a colony hasn’t had enough to drink, one of his kin will share his meal with him.
There are three types of vampire bats. The most widespread is the common vampire bat, who lives in agricultural areas and feeds on farm animals. The other two live in tropical forests, and are called the white-winged vampire bat and the hairy-legged vampire bat. Both latter types feed on birds and reptiles.
9. Myth buster
Bats aren’t blind. They have large, rounded eyes that they use to see – and sometimes even hunt – during the day. However, vampire bats are nocturnal and hunt primarily at night.
Vampire bats live in warm, tropical climates and are found in Mexico, Central America and South America. They usually live in shallow caves or tree hollows, but can occasionally be found in old wells, mineshafts and abandoned buildings