Unlike birds or primates that are easily observed in nature, bats are harder to study as they dwell in secluded areas. In a 2021 study, researchers recently discovered that, while vampire bats ventured alone nightly for their hunting trips, they often joined their friends in their roosts or when sharing their food.
Experts found that female vampire bats are highly sociable animals that share their food with friends who had an unsuccessful hunting night by regurgitating their meals into their friends’ mouths.
What are Vampire Bats?
Vampire bats, or the Desmodus rotundus, are carnivorous bats as small as teacups, with their wingspan measuring seven inches and their weight amounting to 2 ounces. And although bats are already unique animals as they’re the only mammals that can fly, vampire bats are more distinct as they’re the only mammals with a diet consisting of blood, with young vampire bats only consuming the milk of their mothers for three months. (Source: National Geographic)
The nocturnal vampire bats sleep in utter darkness during the day, hanging upside down from the roofs of caves. Vampire bats generally gather in colonies or groups of nearly 100. Sometimes, these groups consist of 1,000 or more. Annually, a colony of 100 bats can consume the blood of 25 cows. (Source: National Geographic)
Vampire bats begin to hunt during the darkest hours of the night. They attack their prey from the ground, landing on all fours to approach their target. Due to their entirely liquid diet, they have few razor-sharp teeth. Every vampire bat has a heat sensor on its nose. Their heat sensor allows easy spotting where warm blood flows beneath its prey’s skin. After they bite their target, they eagerly lick the flowing blood, with their saliva inhibiting the blood from clotting. They then proceed to consume the flowing blood for 30 minutes. (Source: National Geographic)
The common prey of vampire bats are sleeping horses and cattle, but they also consume the blood of humans. And although they do not ingest enough blood to harm their host, their bites are prone to disease and infection. (Source: National Geographic)
Are Female Vampire Bats More Sociable Than Males?
In a 2021 study written by Simon Ripperger and Gerald Carter entitled Social foraging in vampire bats is predicted by long-term cooperative relationships, researchers concluded that the vampire bats frequently joined others to share meals, despite going on hunting trips alone. (Source: Plos Biology)
The tracking devices informed researchers about the bats’ locations inside the roost and helped determine which bats were friends. The devices also let researchers know which of the bats then met up later at feeding sites. Bats that had more friends in the roost also met up with more of their friends during foraging flights.Lina Zeldovich, The Smithsonian Magazine
In addition to that, experts also found that female vampire bats are more sociable than males as female bats made friends and spent most of their time together, either grooming each other or sharing meals. Contrarily, male bats are more territorial, with their time spent mostly alone or defending their spot against other males. Male vampire bats only develop friendships when they mate with females. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)