The Vampire Bat

The vampire bat is misunderstood; the facts and the folklore of this mammel contains some incongruences.

Bats have had a bad rap throughout the centuries. In more superstitious times, people created stories of a crinkly, ugly animal that flew through the night. They imagined them in the caliber of ghosts evil spirits, and vampires (from the Serbian word wampir) bloodsucking ghosts, dead men's souls who left their corpses at night to take blood from sleeping victims. Years later, the bat scientifically known as desmontidae was labeled the vampire bat by a French naturalist Buffon. In 1749, he published Natural History, in which he quoted the testimony of travelers and naturalists, as well as his own experience, he implied that these bats suck the blood of humans. Now we know that the vampire bat rarely attacks man. They will, however, attack large animals such as cattle and horses. They do this by selecting a sparsely haired spot on the animal and making a small, superficial bite in its skin with its incisors. They then gorge themselves on the blood that oozes from this wound, sucking it through a tube-like space formed between the tongue and the notched lower lip. Desmodontids have 20 to 26 teeth, with a single pair of large, sharp incisors. Contrary to the legend of the vampire, this wound is small and the animal often does not even realize it has been bitten. The danger from the vampire bat lies in the slow healing of the wound, which can be conducive to infection and parasitic worms, and the transmission of rabies.

The vampire bat lives in areas ranging from northern Mexico to Argentina. In some areas they are so common that it makes raising cattle unprofitable. The vampire bat sleeps during the day in caves or other areas of total darkness, coming out at dusk to feed. After selecting an animal to feed on, it flies low and straight. It lands on the ground nearby, walking toward its victim and climbing up its leg. This is one of the reasons why they do not feed on dogs. The canine hearing is so attuned to high frequencies that it is forewarned of the vampire bat's approach.

There are several different species of vampire bat. Diemus young is known as the white winged vampire. This particular bat is found only in the Amazon forest. Having 22 teeth, it prefers the blood of birds and goats. Its color is a cinnamon brown tinted with red, except for the borders and tips of the wings which are white, thus giving it its name. Diphylla ecaudata, otherwise known as the hairy-legged vampire, is distinguished from other bats by its smaller body, smaller ears, and 26 teeth. It is found in tropical areas of the Americas, as far north as southern Mexico. Desmodus Rotundus, or the common vampire bat, is innocuous in appearance and is often mistaken for an ordinary bat. It lives in the regions of South and Central America (Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Parguay.

Despite the vast amounts of knowledge that have been discovered about this animal, the vampire bat is still shrouded in superstition and fable, fueled by a public that loves to be scared by things that go bump in the night!

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