Vampire bats are haematophagous. They are the only mammals that survive solely on blood. There are
three (3) species of vampire bats-
- Common Vampire Bats (Desmodus rotundus)
- Hairy-legged Vampire Bats (Diphylla ecaudata)
- White-winged Vampire Bats (Diaemus youngi).
Unlike other bats, they can walk, run and even jump using their strong hind legs and thumbs.
Feeding: Vampire bats feeds on fresh blood or die after starving for 3 days. They feed mainly on warm
blooded animals such as cattles, donkeys, horses and even humans. Using sound waves, vampire bats
locates its prey. The heat sensors on its nose tells its where the warm blood flows close to the skin. It
then rips the hair and makes a small incision using its razor sharp teeth and the tongues laps up the
blood using capillary action aided by microscopic grooves on its tongue. The vampire bat’s saliva
contains a protein called desmoteplase, also known as draculin which acts as an anticoagulant to
prevent the prey’s blood from clotting. The bats can feed undisturbed; without the prey knowing.
Although, they are known to carry and transmit rabies.
Habitat: Vampire bats live in colonies in dark places such as caves, old wells, tree hollows and
Behavior: They are nocturnal and exhibit reciprocal altruism by regurgitating blood to a bat that was
unable to get a meal with the hope that the bat will return the favor. Greedy bats that do not share are
likely to starve.
Threats: Destruction of caves or roost sites. They are agricultural pests.
Conservation Status: Least concern (IUCN, 2015). They have large stable populations.
Fun Fact: Vampire bat saliva may help stroke patients. Scientists isolated the protein from vampire bat’s
saliva hoping it will serve as anti-stroke medication since it stops blood from clotting, it can prevent
blood clotting in the human brain.