Scientists figure out why Vampire bats survive on blood


Scientists have figured out why Vampire bars are the only animals that can survive only on blood. 

Vampire bats have a common Genotype with 26 other species of bats, and scientists identified 13 different genes that are missing or no longer work in vampire bats. Over the years, those gene tweaks helped them adapt to a blood diet rich in iron and protein but with minimal fats or carbohydrates. The bats bite and then lap up blood from livestock or other animals at night. The bats live in South and Central America and are basically “living Draculas,” said co-author Michael Hiller of Germany’s Max Planck Institute. Only three vampire species of the 1,400 kinds of bats can do that the others eat mostly insects, fruit, nectar, pollen, or meat, such as small frogs and fish.

  • “Blood is a terrible food source,” said Hannah Kim Frank, a bat researcher at Tulane University, who was not involved in the study. “It’s totally bizarre and amazing that vampire bats can survive on blood — they are really weird, even among bats.”

Other things that have a taste for blood are mosquitoes, bedbugs, leeches, and fleas. Nature, Ecology, and Evolution’s latest work expanded, which eventually led to them pinpointing 3 of the 13 gene losses.

  • “The new paper shows how different vampire bats are from even other closely related bats, which eat nectar and fruit,” said Kate Langwig, a bat researcher at Virginia Tech, who had no role in the study.

With such a low-calorie diet, vampire bats can’t go long without a meal. Even well-fed ones will regurgitate their food to share with a starving neighbor. They seem to keep track of who has helped them in the past, said Hiller.

  • “It’s not a kin thing,” said Tulane’s Frank. “They just notice and remember: You’re a good sharer, I will reward you.”