Common Vampire Bat Fact File
The vampire bat has a small body with large wings on either side. These wings are formed from a membrane supported by the elongated finger bones. The forearms and legs are also strong to allow them to hop across the ground. They have a long thumb.
Their main body is colored dark brownish grey on the upper side with paler fur that has a buff tinge on the underside.
Inside their mouth are the razor sharp teeth which are used to consume their food. As they drink blood they have the fewest teeth of any bat.
On the face they have a compact muzzle which appears swollen and has pointy ears.
At the end of the body is a short tail which may measure up to 6.5cm (2.5in) long.
A common vampire bat will measure 7-9.5cm (2.75-3.75in) and weighs 19-45g (0.7-1.6oz). They have a wingspan of between 35 and 40cm (13.8-15.7in). Females are typically larger than the males.
Their weight is highly variable as they can drink up to 50% of their body weight in food at one time.
Common vampire bats are Hematophagous which means they feed exclusively on blood. This blood is obtained mostly from mammals such as tapirs, sea lions and peccaries.
Their nose pad is heat-sensitive and is used to seek areas of blood vessels close to the skins surface.
They do not suck the blood. Instead their sharp teeth make an incision in the skin and they lap up the blood which flows from this wound. Their teeth are so sharp that their prey may not feel them make that incision.
Their saliva has anticoagulant properties which means the blood continues to flow and they may drink for up to 30 minutes. Within 30 minutes they may drink up to half of their body weight.
They need to feed once every two days. If a member of their roost has not fed recently they may regurgitate food for them.
Wild 9 years
Captive 20 years
— AD —
South and Central America is the native home of the common vampire bat. Here they can be found in the following countries – Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.
They make their home in warm climates including the tropics and subtropics.
During the day they will roost in a cave or tree hollow. They may also make use of human made structures such as wells, mine shafts and abandoned buildings.
Breeding takes place year round with a peak in April and May along with another in October and November.
A single infant is born after a 7 month gestation period. This remains with the mother for several months as it must learn to feed.
The mother will start the process of transitioning the infant to blood by regurgitating some for it.
Sexual maturity is reached at 9 months old.
Vampire bats live in a group of between 30 and 150 animals which will roost together during the day. Typically females roost with their young and a dominant male while non-dominant males will roost away from this group.
While they are strong fliers the common vampire bat can also walk around by raising themselves up on the legs.
Females help to maintain their social bonds between them and others by mutual grooming. This behavior is also used to determine if a member of the colony needs food.
They are mostly nocturnal emerging at night to feed.
Common vampire bats can fly off the ground. They take a small leap before beginning to fly.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the common vampire bat include birds of prey such as owls.
Some farmers consider them a pest as they will feed on the blood of livestock. Their population is thought to have increased with this additional food source becoming available.
Another threat is destruction as part of rabies control measures. These may include poisoning, shooting or burning out the entire cave.
The blood clotting properties of the common vampire bats saliva have been used to create a new medicine which is nicknamed ‘draculin.’ This is used to break down blood clots.
Rare reports exist of the common vampire bat feeding on human blood.
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By Uwe Schmidt, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48367423
By Gerry Carter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43713505
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