Vampire Bats

Vampire bats hunt only when it is fully dark.

Vampire bats, species of the subfamily Desmodontinae, are leaf-nosed bats found in Central and South America. Bats are the only mammals that can fly, but vampire bats have an even more interesting distinction—they are the only mammals that feed entirely on blood. These notorious bats sleep during the day in total darkness, suspended upside down from the roofs of caves, old wells, hollow trees, or buildings.

Only three of the more than 1,300 bat species in the world are vampire bats: the common (Desmodus rotundus), the white-winged (Diaemus young), and hairy-legged (Diphylla ecaudata) vampire bats.

They typically gather in colonies of about 100 animals but sometimes live in groups of 1,000 or more. The basic social structure of roosting bats is made of ‘harems’.

These are composed of females and their offspring and a few adult males known as ‘resident males’ and a separate group of males, known as ‘nonresident males’. Female vampire bats form associations with one another that can last for many years.

Vampire bats are believed to be the only species of bats in the world to ‘adopt’ another young bat if something happens to the bat’s mother. They are very clean animals that frequently groom themselves as well as other bats.

In one year, a 100-bat colony can drink the blood of 25 cows. During the darkest part of the night, common vampire bats emerge to hunt. Sleeping cattle, pigs, and horses are their usual victims, but they have been known to feed on people as well. The bats drink their victim’s blood for about 30 minutes. They don’t remove enough blood to harm their host, but their bites can cause nasty infections and diseases. Grooves in the tongue direct the blood backward into the throat of vampire bats as they feed.

A vampire bat’s saliva contains Draculin, a type of protein. It is essential to them, as they use it to prevent the blood from their prey from clotting, allowing the blood to continue flowing into the wound they inflict. A fascinating vampire bat fact about this protein is that it is named after Count Dracula.

In contrast with other vampire bat species, the white-winged vampire bat, seems to prefer birds. Don’t worry; if you are bitten by a vampire bat, you won’t be turning into a vampire anytime soon. Most of the time, you won’t even notice, but also remember that these animals can carry rabies, so get checked out immediately.

The common Vampire bat is 2 inches long, weighs 1 oz., and has a wingspan of about 8 inches. They have brown, grey, or black fur and can live about 8-12 years in the wild, and can fly up to 25mph. Their enemies are hawks, eagles, snakes, and humans if they threaten livestock. Like all mammals, they are warm-blooded and give birth to live young. Female bats usually give birth to just one young bat, called a pup.

The female turns herself upside down from her usual head-down position and hangs with her tail end down. She creates a pouch with her wings to catch the pup as it comes out bottom-first. Their smell, sounds, and echolocation[1] to come across their next meal. Vampire bats use echolocation by emitting a lot of high-pitched sounds. In this way, the sound echo can be used to determine the location and distance.

The vampire bat has infrared receptors in its nose as well. Using this technique, they are able to detect heat and observe where the blood vessels are on their prey. Together, these five senses assist the vampire bat in deciding when and how to eat. Vampire bats must eat at least every two or three nights. If they are unable to feed during this time period, they will die from a lack of nourishment.

Vampire bats are very agile and can walk, run, and hop on all four limbs, stalking their prey stealthily. They have special thumb pads and strong limbs, which help them to walk on the ground and to take off into flight after feeding. A vampire bat is said to be able to see animals up to 500 feet from them in the dark! A vampire bat has much better eyesight than many other types of bats.

They have razor-sharp teeth
The upper incisors are triangular in shape with very sharp points. These teeth have no enamel, which helps to keep them sharp for cutting into the skin of their prey. Vampire bats have fewer teeth than any other bat because they do not have to chew their food.

The Vampire Bat is a 1933 American Pre-Code[2] horror film directed by Frank R. Strayer and starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, and Dwight Frye. Bram Stoker is famous for writing about vampires but was not the first to have his vampires turn into bats and fly away.

  1. Echolocation, also called bio sonar, is a biological sonar used by several animal species. Echolocating animals emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects. Echolocation is used for navigation, foraging, and hunting in various environments. Echolocating animals include mammals, most notably Laurasiatheria, especially odontocetes (toothed whales) and some bat species, and also, using simpler forms, species in other groups such as shrews. A few bird species also echolocate, including two cave-dwelling bird groups, the so-called cave swiftlets in the genus Aerodramus (formerly Collocalia) and the unrelated oilbird Steatornis caripensis. [Back]
  2. Pre-Code Hollywood (1927–1934) was the brief era in the American film industry between the widespread adoption of sound in film in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines, popularly known as the “Hays Code”, in mid-1934. Although the Code was adopted in 1930, oversight was poor, and it did not become rigorously enforced until July 1, 1934, with the establishment of the Production Code Administration (PCA). Before that date, film content was restricted more by local laws, negotiations between the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) and the major studios, and popular opinion, than by strict adherence to the Hays Code, which was often ignored by Hollywood filmmakers. [Back]

Further Reading


National Geographic
One Kind Planet
A-Z Animals
Fact Animal
Zoo America

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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