Vampire Bat

Vampire Bat
VAMPIRE BAT (Desmodus rotundus)
Pronounced: Dez-mo-dus ro-tund-us Order: Chiroptera
Kingdom: Animalia Family: Phyllostomidae
Phylum: Chordata Genus: Desmodus
Class: Mammalia Species: rotundus


Desmodus rotundus eats blood. There are two other species of bats that also eat blood, but rotundus is different. While the other bats are happy to find birds and rodents in the forest, rotundus prefers pork, beef and chicken – so its spends most of its nights finding agricultural lands where farm animals such as pigs, cattle and chickens are raised. Using echolocation and keen eyesight it will find its prey in the dark. It has special heat sensors that help it locate veins full of warm blood close to the animal’s skin. It zeroes in on this spot and uses sharp teeth to cut a small hole in the skin. It leaves a chemical that numbs the area and another that keeps the blood from clotting. Then, like a kitten drinking milk, it laps the blood from the wound. It might have a whole meal, about 2 tablespoons, and leave again without the animal even knowing it was there.

Also unlike other bats, rotundus has a long, clawed finger (or thumb). It allows the bat to push off from the ground, with the help of strong back legs, and launch itself up to 3 feet in the air so that it can take off (many bats can’t take off from the ground). The claw also helps it hold on to animals as it feeds.

Vampire bats make their homes in warm, dry or tropical caves, buildings and tree cavities. They live in Mexico, Central and South America. They are usually social creatures, preferring to live in groups. In fact, living together can help them survive. They can’t go for more than 2 nights without eating or they will die. So, if they are new mothers and can’t get out to feed, or if they just couldn’t find food, their “friends” will sometimes share a meal, regurgitating some blood for them to eat. New mothers have been seen eating from a friend for up to 2 weeks. Although they only have one young at a time, they nurse them for several months. Females and young usually form large groups, often with a dominant male, but other males are more solitary.

In addition to heat sensing, they also have excellent eyesight – homing in on a cow from over 130 metres (430 feet) away. In the dark! And don’t forget bats’ most famous tool – echolocation. Since they fly on average about 3 feet off the ground, this sense is vital to keep them from bumping into trees, shrubs, etc.

With its wings outstretched, Vampire Bats measure up to 8 inches across, but their bodies are only about an inch wide.

Owls are one of bats’ predators – they can see just as well, or better, in the dark!


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