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Desmodus rotundus [dez mO' duhs rO' tun duhs]
Vampire bats are 2.75 to 3.5 inches long, have a wingspan of 13.75 to 15.75 inches, and weigh 0.5 to 1.75 ounces; females are larger than males.
Well adapted for its lifestyle, the vampire bat has very sharp triangular-shaped front teeth, which cut like a razor. Its esophagus is short and narrow, and will permit nothing but fluids to pass. Two lateral grooves in the tongue expand and contract as the animal feeds. It also has an acute sense of smell and large eyes, allowing it find prey easily.
Unlike other bats, vampire bats can walk, run, and hop along the ground. They can also jump forward, backward, and laterally, allowing them to easily avoid kicking hooves, swishing tails, other predators, etc. Jumping is also used to initiate flight, especially after a large meal.
Distribution and Habitat
The common vampire bat ranges from Mexico to Argentina and Chile. It lives in moderately lighted caves with deep fissures, tree hollows, old wells, mine shafts, and abandoned buildings.
Habits and Behaviors
Vampire bats live in colonies ranging from 20 to 100 animals; much larger colonies, up to 5,000, have been reported.
A vampire bat usually walks or hops up to its prey, then climbs up the animal and finds a suitable meal site. Once found, it makes a small incision in the skin, and then laps up the blood as it oozes from the wound. The bite itself is relatively painless, and it is not uncommon for an animal to be fed upon while sleeping and not even stir. Many bats do, however, carry rabies and other parasites, and occasionally a bite will become infected. In the wild, vampire bats tend to prey upon livestock because of availability. They will, on rare occasions, also prey on humans.
Males compete for space in roosting places containing females, and each male defends his own small part of the roost from other males through chasing, pushing, and sometimes fighting. Although females may give birth any time of the year, births tend to peak in April and May and again in October and November. Typically only one young is born at a time, but twins are not uncommon.
Vampire bats can live up to 12 years in the wild.
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This page was last updated on June 23, 2017.