The Gruesome Way Vampire Bats Share Food
Vampire Bat's Grim Meal Sharing Methods Are Not For The Squeamish ...
Vampire bats have long been associated with tales of blood-sucking, immortal vampires that burn in the sun, cower from garlic and meet their demise from silver and holy water.
Vampires of legend have been heavily romanticized in popular culture, even long before the sparkly Twilight twist on the myth. Today, vampires are often showcased as intense and sexy. Far from the monstrous beings our ancestors would fear, they have been humanised by movies and television by becoming beautiful and desirable people-like creatures that often feed on alternatives to human blood. These dark and brooding blood (alternative) suckers have the power to grant you eternal life and youth if only you are lucky enough for them to fall in love with you. You and your 200 year old vampire would then be able to live out the rest of eternity enthralled in an intense romance typical of vampire stories, and with whatever array of powers resonate with you depending on which legends and movies you shape your desires around.
Vampire bats are the only mammals that feed solely on blood but unlike modern vampires, the way that they share a meal with their peers is a little less romantic than the vampire stories we have grown to love so much. Female vampire bats have been observed to regurgitate blood into the mouths of others. Although this behaviour has been observed in the animal kingdom before from birds, it is usually only their young offspring that they share this intimate exchange with. It is somewhat unique that the vampire bat provides a bloody meal in this way for its fellow, adult friends.
In a study published by Current Biology it has been found that female vampire bats will provide a regurgitated meal of blood for contemporaries on the brink of starvation, if they have a strong enough bond.
The bats establish bonds by first grooming each other - a 'low cost' interaction. This practice of mutual grooming enables the animals to build a connection in which they eventually feel comfortable sharing food - a 'high cost' interaction.
It was noted that the mammals groom one another more than that which is needed for cleanliness alone. Professor Carter said:
"Even if you remove all ectoparasites from their fur, they still groom each other more than is necessary for just hygiene. We think of social grooming as a kind of currency, a way to gain tolerance and bond with another individual."
He then further explained:
"When you make a cooperative investment in another individual, there is a kind of risk, because if you have a bad partner, you can be even worse off than if you had just avoided them altogether. So, what you could do is invest a little bit to test the waters. Then, if they invest back in you, that's a signal to ramp up your investment, and so on."
The bat's diet consists exclusively of blood and if one doesn't succeed in feeding for three days it is at risk of fatality due to starvation. The action of blood regurgitation from a peer can rescue the malnourished bat from dying.
Very occasionally, sharing a meal can create such a bond between two vampire bats that it resembles something not too dissimilar from human friendship and pairs have been known to travel together for years. Sometimes bonds of this nature can last a lifetime, although relationships of this depth are not common.
Sources have reported the exchange to resemble something of a horrifying 'French kiss.'
The findings of the study are fascinating and researchers are interested now in expanding their knowledge on how the bats form relationships and choose partners.
I can only but hope that the findings of this study worm their way into popular culture and the media and inspire some grotesque vampire story that focuses less on romance and more on gore.
Would we all have found the Twilight Saga's Breaking Dawn so romantic if upon Bella being born into the blood and weakened, Edward went on the hunt and returned to vomit a bodies worth of blood down her throat? Absolutely not. However, is that a movie that would have made for a more interesting watch? Perhaps.