Vampire Bats and Their Blood-Hungry Selves

Vampire Bats and Their Blood-Hungry Selves

Scientists have finally figured out why vampire bats have such an appetite for blood.


They compared the genotype of those to 26 other species of bats and found out that vampire bats have 13 genes missing or no longer work in the species. Over a long period of time, the genes tweaks have helped them adapt to a diet of only blood which is rich in protein and iron, but has minimal fats and carbohydrates. 


“The new paper shows how different vampire bats are from even other closely related bats, which eat nectar and fruit,” says Kate Langwig.


The vampire bats are about three inches big with a wingspan of about seven inches. The bats typically feed in the night on livestock or other animals. Most mammals can’t survive off of an only blood diet. Only 3 out of the 1,400 species of bats can do that, the others eat mostly insects, fruit, nectar, pollen or meat, such as small frogs and fish.


“It’s totally bizarre and amazing that vampire bats can survive on blood — they are really weird, even among bats,” says Hannah Kim Frank.


Since Vampire bats cant go very long without a meal, they will regurgitate their food to share with a hungry friend. Most of them will remember who they share with and will do it again. 


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