Jun
20
2006

Beware! Bloodsucking predators with extraordinary senses

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Common Vampire Bat: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Common Vampire Bat: Courtesy of Wikipedia

The common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) has a diet that consists exclusively of blood. These predators, which are approximately the size of a human thumb, are able to consume 1.4 times their body weight in blood each night.

So how do they do that?

Vampire bats have been known to have a keen sense of smell as well as the unique ability to sense infrared radiation given off by warm-blooded animals.

It was recently determined that they have another extraordinary sense, the ability to detect their prey based on the sound of its breathing. They remember the sound of their victim's breath and then use that fact to relocate the exact same animal to prey on later.

Researchers at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany, taught 3 vampire bats to associate 10 second recordings of human breathing with specific food containers. The bats recognized the sounds and connected them to the correct dispenser every time. They beat out humans who took a similar test using computers with touch-screens. Humans could not identify any of the breathing sounds under stress, but the bats were able to every time.

The researchers discovered that bats have specialized brain cells that are stimulated only by the breathing sounds.

Sounds scary!

Don't worry, you should be safe here in Minnesota, but if you ever find yourself sleeping outside in the rainforests of South America, be careful!

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