While most of the wild vampire bats are known to be fairly harmless, for the first time they have revolted and started feeding on humans in Brazil, causing a wave of hysteria and panic in the region.
Before this, vampire bats usually fed on domesticated animals, such as cows, horses, and pigs. And despite having a taste for mammal blood, vampire bats rarely targeted humans. But this latest trend has spurred a lot of concern, as these hairy legged nopes could very well be spreading disease along with validating chiroptophobia, which is the fear of the stereotypes associated with bats.
Researcher Enrico Bernard, along with his team of researchers from the Federal University of Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, analyzed 70 feces samples from a group of vampire bats, Diphylla ecudata, living in Catimbau National Park in northeast Brazil. They extracted DNA from 15 of the samples and found traces of human blood in at least three of them. The research has been published in the journal Acta Chiropterologica.
“We were quite surprised,” Enrico Bernard told New Scientist. “This species isn’t adapted to feed on the blood of mammals.”
Previously, these particular type of bats were thought to exclusively feed on birds like guans and tinamous for their fat rich blood instead of the protein rich one found in mammals, like humans.
This terrifying change could be a direct result of human intrusion disturbing the ecosystem of the region of Catimbau National Park, where the bats reside. The area is now home to more and more human families, causing the bat’s usual preys to flock away due to deforestation and hunting. So, in a way, the humans kind of deserve the bat retaliation (if you can call it that).
The bats have also been found to be adapting to different sources of food, such as chickens on farms in the area. Speaking to the New Scientist about this change, Bernard said:
“They are adapting to their environment and exploiting the new resources.”
While the news of a bat apocalypse in itself is scary, this isn’t where the horror story ends. Bats are known to transmit rabies, and many bats have been found to carry a virus called European Bat Lyssavirus (EBLV) that can effect humans. Three other species of African fruit bat also have been found to carry the Ebola virus., so the news of bats directly attacking people is indeed something of concern.
Bernard and his team are now looking to study the bats and the victims further and give a detailed assessment of the health risks of the attacks. It is still unsure how the bats usually attack, and they suspect that the bats are entering people’s bedrooms through some gaps or holes in roofs or windows.
So until the crisis is sorted out, Batman might be looking to shift his Batcave to some place away from the human blood sucking vampire bats! Or at least never forget to feed them on time!