Vampire Bat Facts – Questions And Answers!

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Common Vampire Bat, Desmodus rotundus, running on the ground. Image credit: Uwe Schmidt, cc4.0

Vampire Bat Facts – Questions And Answers!

Common_Vampire_Bat_Desmodus_rotundus
Common Vampire Bat, Desmodus rotundus, running on the ground. Image credit: Uwe Schmidt, cc4.0

Bats are widely regarded as dark and mysterious creatures, none more so than the vampire bat. But is the vampire bat really as scary as it sounds? Let’s get to know this creature better.

Q: Are vampires real? What is a vampire bat?

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Common vampire bat. Picture taken at Sangayan Island, Paracas National Reserve, Departamento Ica, Peru, in March 2005. Image credit: Acatenazzi, GFDL.

A: Vampires may not be real but vampire bats are. There are three species of vampire bats in the world – the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat and the white-winged vampire bat. These bats do not look at all scary. They are brown or gray, darker on top and lighter on the bottom, not black. They have dark brown or black eyes, never red. They have tiny teeth, no fangs. They also have large and flat leaf-shaped noses, which they use to smell food and produce the clicking sounds for echolocation.

Echolocation is the process of finding an object using echoes and is how bats navigate through the darkness. They send off sounds through their nasal passages and listen to them bounce back. The time it takes for the sound to bounce back, as well as the frequency of the sound allow the bat to determine whether objects are far or near so they can move in the right direction without bumping into anything.




Q: How big are vampire bats?

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Stuffed specimen of Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai). Exhibit in the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan. Image credit: Momotarou2012, cc3.0

A: Vampire bats are 3 to 3.5 inches long with wingspans that range from 7 to 15 inches. They weigh between half an ounce to almost two ounces. They are small bats, considering the largest bats have wingspans of over five feet long and weigh more than three pounds. They are not the smallest bats, though. That distinction belongs to Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, which is only over an inch long.

Q: Where are vampire bats found?

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White-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi). Image credit: Gcarter2, CC-BY-SA-2.5

A: The common vampire bat can be found in Mexico, Central America and South America as far south as northern Argentina. It can also be found on the island of Trinidad and is particularly common in Brazil. The hairy-legged vampire bat can be found in North and South America, from southern Texas to southern Brazil. The white-winged vampire bat is found in Mexico and South America, as well as the islands of Trinidad and Margarita.

Q: Where do vampire bats live?

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Vampire Bats swarm in a tunnel. Image credit: darkday, cc2.0

A: Vampire bats search for food at night, so they can be found in fields and forests. During the day, they can be found roosting in caves, mine tunnels or even abandoned buildings.

Vampire bats live in colonies that number by the thousands. These colonies, in turn, are composed of harems or groups that consist of one male and several females and their young. Vampire bats are unique in that they have strong family bonds, with the healthy ones feeding those that are sick or old and unable to leave the roost, since vampire bats cannot last more than two days without food. The females also adopt orphaned young, caring for them as their own.

Q: Do vampire bats drink blood? What does a vampire bat eat?

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A Common Vampire Bat, Desmodus rotundus, feeding on an animal. Showcase of taxidermied animals, Natural History Museum, Vienna. Image credit: Sandstein, cc3.0

A: Vampire bats get their name from their diet – they feed exclusively on blood. In fact, they are the only mammals that feed on blood. And yes, they drink blood. They do not suck it like many mistakenly believe. Instead, when a vampire bat finds a source of food, it first looks for the perfect spot to drink blood from, then creates a tiny incision using its teeth. The blood trickles out and the bat drinks until it has had its fill – about as much of its body weight. The cut stays open until then because of a special component in the saliva of the vampire bat, which is now known as Draculin and is being studied in hopes that it will help prevent strokes and heart attacks in humans in the future.

Vampire bats can finish drinking as much as their body weight in 20 minutes and digest their meal in less than an hour. In fact, the digestion already begins while they are drinking, which is why they urinate during feeding, already getting rid of the excess liquid. Otherwise, they would be too heavy to fly.

After the bat is finished, the wound naturally closes and the source of food is practically unharmed, left alive to provide another meal for another day.

Q: Do vampire bats drink human blood?

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Bats attack by Violentz, cc2.0

A: None of the vampire bats make it a habit to feed on human blood. The common vampire bat drinks blood from mammals, particularly livestock like cows, horses and sheep. The hairy-legged and white-winged vampire bats feed on the blood of birds, including chickens, turkeys and ducks.

Sometimes, vampire bats may attack humans but often, this only occurs when they are sick. This can be dangerous because all bats can carry rabies. However, scientists believe that less than 1 percent of all vampire bats actually carry rabies, so you are more likely to get rabies from a dog than from a vampire bat.

Q: How long does a vampire bat live?

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A: Vampire bats may not live forever but they can live up to an average of nine years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity. That’s long, considering rats which are about the same size can live only up to four years at most.

Q: How many young does a vampire bat have?

A: Vampire bats only have one young called a pup each year. Why? This is because the mother has to keep on flying and looking for food while she is pregnant and right after giving birth and it’s hard to fly if she’s carrying a lot of babies. She has to carry her newborn because it is only strong enough to cling to her and still too weak to hang upside down in the roost. Female vampire bats feed their pups milk like all other mammals for the first three months and then begin feeding them blood until they can find it for themselves.




Q: Are vampire bats endangered?

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A: Vampire bats are rarely seen because they are only active at night. However, all three species are believed to have a healthy population and are classified as species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Vampire Bats are also mentioned in:
Top 10 Venomous Animals You Never Knew Were Venomous!

Vampire Bats are featured in these following books:
25 Nocturnal Animals
25 Amazon Rainforest Animals
101 Facts… Bats!
25 Strangest Animals in the World!


The YouTube video playlist below contains videos about Vampire Bats. Details of the videos featured are underneath.

The Playlist:

  1. Vampire bats nesting in a cave – Expedition Guyana – BBC
  2. Part 1 Monsters by BBCPlanetWild
  3. World’s Deadliest : Vampire Bats by NatGeoWild
  4. Vampire Bats by NationalGeographic
  5. Vampire Bats Biting People by NationalGeographic·
  6. Blood Sucking Vampire Bats by oasishdchannel
  7. 15 Most Dangerous Animals in the Amazon Rainforest by IP Factly

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_vampire_bat
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairy-legged_vampire_bat
http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Desmodus_rotundus/
http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Diphylla_ecaudata/

To view the complete list of sources, click here…

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