Vampire bats are leaf-nosed bats found in the Americas. Their food source is blood, a trait called hematophagy. Three extant bat species feed solely on blood: the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat. All three species are native to the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.
As all three of them seem more similar to one another than to any other species, which suggests that feeding on blood evolved only once, 26 million years ago, and the three species share this common ancestor.
The rest of their relatives generally consume many food sources, including nectar, pollen, insects, fruit and meat.
They create a small incision with their teeth and lap up blood from the wound. The bat’s saliva, left in the victim’s resulting bite wound, has a key function in feeding on the wound.
Vampire bats and blood swapping
Vampire bats’ saliva contains several compounds that prolong bleeding, such as anticoagulants that inhibit blood clotting, and compounds that prevent the constriction of blood vessels near the wound.
Eating blood has its risks: a large volume of liquid potentially overwhelming the kidneys and bladder, the risk of iron poisoning, and coping with excess protein. Not eating blood for three days, when a hemophagocytic, means dying.
The new research observed that they are gregarious beings. They groom each other, then they go to mouth-licking, and in the end, they go vampire mode. They willfully engage in a bloody French-kiss. Not just with their family members, but with other adults too.
“Food sharing in vampire bats is like how a lot of birds regurgitate food for their offspring. But what’s special with vampire bats is they do this for other adults,” said Prof Gerald Carter, author of the study and behavioral ecologist at Ohio State University. Who would dare to say that bats aren’t friendly?