In the first part of this two part series, you were introduced to the common vampire bat. Now learn more about its diet and unique behavior.
Diet and Behavior:
The common vampire bat feeds mostly on the blood of mammals such as cows, pigs, and horses, where as the other two species of vampire bats feed mostly upon the blood of birds. Vampire bats have been known to bite humans on extremely rare occasions but are not quite the scary menace that many legends have made them out to be.
Although we are familiar with the idea of vampires sucking your blood, vampire bats do not actually “suck” the blood of their victims. Instead, they use their teeth as a precision cutting tool making an incision that is about 7mm in length and runs a depth of around 8mm. They then lap the blood from the wound with their tongue much in the same way that a dog will drink water. Special enzymes in the bat’s saliva, called draculin, which helps to prevent clotting while they feed, prolonging the bleeding long enough for the bat to be nourished. The entire process usually lasts for around 20 minutes or so and will result in a bat consuming around 1ounce of blood from its victim.
An average vampire bat must feed at least once every few days. If a bat is unable to find adequate amounts of blood, they will engage in a unique ritual, soliciting donations from other bats which occur via a mouth to mouth blood sharing exchange.
Bats and Rabies:
A very small portion of vampire bats, only about 0.5% of the population, carries rabies which can be passed on to their victims. Bats who do have rabies are often quite disoriented, uncoordinated, and are not able to fly. This is why it is very important to be sure that you avoid any contact or handling of a bat, especially one that is found on the ground and may be acting in an unusual, clumsy matter. For the most part, bats do not pose a threat to humans; however, proper precautions are necessary and bats should not be kept in or near your living quarters. Vampire bats have extremely sharp teeth; however, they are very small, so small in fact that a person could be bit in their sleep and not feel it.
This post is part of the series: Species Spotlight: The Common Vampire Bat
Get a closer look at the mysterious vampire bat.