We’ve all seen the movies featuring everyone’s famous monster: the vampire. Whether it’s Dracula or Edward from “Twilight,” these immortal creatures possess a variety of supernatural abilities, but a constant are their pair of razor-sharp fangs and their insatiable thirst for human blood. If cornered, vampires could even transform into their favorite animal, the bat, and fly away. Luckily, vampires don’t exist in real-life…right?
Well, yes and no. Turns out there’s a creature living today with that possesses sharp fangs, prefers to hunt at night, and harbors an appetite for the blood of sleeping victims. Rest assured, the vampire bat is very real, but despite its spooky looks and name, you have nothing to fear from this flying mammal.
True to its name, the common vampire bat’s main food source is blood, a dietary trait called hematophagy. It’s one of three species of vampire bats that feed on blood. Taking to the skies, the vampire bat locates a sleeping victim below, listening closely to make sure its unconscious. The common vampire bat then swoops down on lands nearby. While other bats have difficulty on land, the vampire bat can walk, jump, and even run to situate itself to approach its prey and locate a prime feeding spot. Using infrared radiation detectors in its nose, the vampire bat locates where blood flows closest to the skin, and using their teeth, they make an incision and lap up blood from the wound. The vampire’s saliva contains anticoagulants, so that its food source keeps flowing until the bat has had its fill.
Sound terrifying? Well, don’t worry, while the vampire bat has been known to occasionally feed on human blood, its more common targets are large mammals like cows and pigs. And unlike movie vampires, the vampire bat’s prey usually lives through the ordeal – and they certainly don’t arise as an undead demon of the night. In fact, the vampire bat may actually save human lives, as the anticoagulant properties of its saliva were recently used to create desmoteplase, a drug to treat stroke patients.
You’ll see vampire bats in Caribbean Journey’s Mayan Ruins this May, and you can visit them without worrying about your neck. They’re not interested in feeding on our guests, especially since they already receive regular meals of bovine blood, specially prepared just for them. Even knowing you’re safe, though, you’re sure to get a thrill out of these real-life vampires.