The True Story of Vampire Bats
by Alexis Cherry, age 14
When thinking of vampire bats, the same question always seems to come to mind: are vampire bats really like vampires, or is that just a misnomer? Although they are mammals, vampire bats’ mannerisms, breeding, and feeding habits are slightly different from others in its class.
Vampire bats are very intelligent. They are only active at night, which increases their chances of dodging predators. At night, their prey is likely to be sleeping, which makes it easier for the bats to attack. In the daytime they roost (meaning they hang upside down on a perch to sleep.) Sometimes they switch to perches that are closer to their prey in order to save time.
Clearly vampire bats are very different from humans, but they have a few similarities worth recognizing. One of these similarities is their breeding habits. Vampire bats give birth to only one offspring at a time like humans. Gestation usually takes six to eight months and their offspring are often premature, just as some human children are.
For the first few days of its life, a vampire bat has to be carried by its mother because it is born blind. The maturation rate for vampire bats and humans, is vastly different, however, because a bat can reproduce at nine months. At this point the bat can have offspring of its own and the cycle begins again.
The way vampire bats feed is interesting, but vicious. The bats mostly feed on livestock, like cows. They draw blood by inserting their incisor-like teeth into the shoulder or neck of their prey, where blood vessels are closest to the skin (kind of like a vampire—hence their name.) The saliva in the bats’ mouth contains chemicals that keep their prey’s blood flowing for two to three minutes. Sometimes if the bat has rabies, it can transfer the disease to its victim.
Vampire bats are located in North, Central, and South America. They typically feed on mammals, like cows, horses, deer, and occasionally humans.
[Source: Wildlife Fact File]