Uh-Oh. Vampire Bats Have Started Feeding On Humans For The First Time

January 13, 2017

Though they sound intimidating, vampire bats have never bothered humans for their blood... until now.

Researchers have discovered that hairy-legged vampire bats in Brazil have managed to kick things up a notch - they've been caught feeding on humans by night, and that's something no one even thought was possible.

vampire bats bite humans first time
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"We were quite surprised," Enrico Bernard from the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil told New Scientist. "This species isn't adapted to feed on the blood of mammals."

There are three existing species of vampire bat. The common vampire bat is the only one that prefers the blood of mammals such as cows, horses, and pigs.

The white-winged vampire bat and the hairy-legged vampire bat primarily feed on birds.

But when Bernard and his team investigated the diets of a colony of hairy-legged vampire bats in the Caatinga dry forests of northeastern Brazil, they found something strange.

Genetic analysis of 15 faecal samples contained bird DNA as expected, but 3 of those samples contained a mixture of human and bird DNA - evidence that these particular individuals had been feeding on both.

vampire bats bite humans first time
Getty Images

There are a lot of open questions here.

Bernard and his team suspect that the bats are entering people's bedrooms through holes in roofs or windows, or that they target people sleeping outside in hammocks. The team is currently following up by visiting the homes of nearby residents.

"We want to find out how often they are being bitten, when and how," says Bernard.

Sources: Science Alert, New Scientist

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