Missing genes allow vampire bats to feed only on blood

According to a study published in Scientists progress on March 25, vampire bats have gradually shed their genes over the past million years, causing them to evolve a range of behaviors and physical characteristics that allow them to survive on a diet nightmares are made of.

What is lost is not found

By comparing the genomes of the vampire bat to 26 other bat species, genomics scientist Michael Hiller of the Max Planck Institute in Germany and his colleagues found that the parasitic species had lost genes over time.

Of these lost or inactive genes, three have already been reported in the species and are associated with taste receptors in other animals, leading researchers to believe that bats can drink so much blood because they can’t really taste it.

The other 10 missing genes were recently identified in bats, but based on how they work in other animals, researchers believe their absence contributed to vampire bats maintaining a bloody diet because they have been found in animals to help control insulin levels, convert sugar and break down solid foods.

One of the genes is known to inhibit iron intake in other animals, but without it bats can hit the bloody bar hard. Even though they are only 3 inches long and weigh about the same as a single AA battery, vampire bats typically consume 800 times more iron than the average human!

Lap

Unlike their namesake monsters, vampire bats do not want suck your blood – they lick it instead! Native to South and Central America, the three species of bloodthirsty vampire bats wander in search of livestock for food, puncturing the animals before letting the blood pool so they can lap it up.

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Although oddball bats were once believed to prefer the taste of bird, pig and goat blood, in 2017 researchers from the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil studied the feces of their local population. of bats to discover that more than 20% of the guano contained traces of human blood!

Despite the fact that they’re not there to drain life from your body, it’s still best to sleep with one eye open if you find yourself in the company of a vampire bat, as they can spread disease. These sneaky suckers hunt at night and are likely to snag you while you’re sleeping, through holes in roofs or biting people camping in the rainforest – and you can guarantee they have friends!

Blood donations are the key to their survival

Since blood is extremely low in calories and nutrients, it takes a decent amount of it to keep these tiny bats thriving. A single vampire bat can engulf up to 1.4 times its own weight every time it eats!

pregnant vampire bat

This vampire bat is technically pregnant, but we imagine that’s how one would feel after eating 1.4 times their body weight in blood.

Although bloodthirsty, vampire bats are sociable creatures and form long-term bonds with their conspecifics in the wild. Since they are susceptible to starvation, they have no problem spilling blood with their friends through regurgitation, although they are more likely to do so with bats that have already donated to them. Sharing is caring, after all!


By Meghan Yani, Contributor for Ripleys.com

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Source: Missing genes allow vampire bats to feed only on blood

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