Vampire Bats Don't Suck (plus Batbaby!)
What's Halloween without bats? So many people are terrified by these flying mammals for absolutely no good reason that I think it's truly odd.
Sure, there are a few species of vampire bats that do drink the blood of their prey, but come on, it's not like their bite is going to turn you into an undead, blood-sucking creature with an aversion to sunlight, an unquenchable lust, penchant for sleeping in coffins or uber-shiny skin (depending on whose vampire stories you're reading).
But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. In reality, vampire bats feed on birds and mammals, often domestic species such as pigs, chickens and cows, and their adaptations are more cool than dangerous.
As is the norm for bats, these vampire bats are nocturnal and wait for their hosts to fall sleep before approaching. (I use the term host instead of "victim" because vampire bats don't kill the the animals they feed upon.)
They make a neat incision with their sharp teeth and then lap the blood up. They don't actually suck. While they don't have anesthetic saliva to numb the wound, they bite so quickly and cleanly that the animals being fed upon don't even feel it. How cool is that?
The reality about bats is two-fold. First, bats are extremely important predators of pest insects and some are even important pollinators and distributors of plant seeds. Second, bats in North American are in trouble. For the last few years bats have been wiped out by the millions by a mysterious disease known as White-Nose Syndrome that scientists are only just now beginning to understand.
So, like the title says, bats don't suck and they really could use some love.
Here's a video showing vampire bats doing their thing. Creepy and odd, but amazing too!
And just for fun, here's the most recent video from The Superions (a side project of Fred Schneider of the B-52's, who are known for their many odd animal-related songs from Rock Lobster to Big Bird to Quiche Lorraine the green poodle). It's the perfect mix of John Waters meets 60's era sci-fi just in time for Halloween!
Animal Planet is Bat Central!
Phobia: Chiroptophobia, the Fear of Bats
Cute?: Baby Vampire Bat
Video: Bulldog Bats Hunting
Species: Meet the Endangered Indiana Bat
From National Wildlife Federation: Seven Reasons Bats are Just as Cool as Batman
Vampire bat photo by diveofficer via Flickr Creative Commons.