Amy Wray, one of my classmates and good friends here at Columbia University, is doing a super cool thesis on vampire bats! She submitted this guest post as a part of our Science Communication class, with the goal of spreading the word about how cool her study species is! Follow her on Twitter: @amykwray
Vampires have always been fascinating as mythical creatures, but real vampires in nature are often surrounded by misconceptions. Take this quiz and find out how much you really know about blood-sucking creatures in fiction and in fact.
Question 1: Which one of these is a real vampire?
Answer: B. The vampire finch, Geospiza difficilis septentrionalis, is native to the Galápagos islands where it feeds on the blood of other birds. The bat pictured here, the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), eats only insects. In fact, out of nearly 1200 bat species, there are only 3 that consume blood.
Question 2: Which one of these vampires has an impressive running ability?
Answer: A & B. Trick question! Edward might have super-speed abilities, but the common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus also has the unique ability to run on land. By using its forelimbs to propel itself forward, this bat can even jump vertically into the air.
Question 3: Which of these vampires likes to snuggle?
Answer: A. Pam from True Blood probably doesn’t like to snuggle, but common vampire bats do! By roosting together in colonies, these bats are able to thermoregulate and stay warm even when temperatures drop.
Question 4: Which one of these vampires has provided medical help for humans?
Answer: A & B. Tricked you again! While Dr. Carlisle Cullen may have helped lots of humans in Twilight, vampire bats have lead to medical advances which have helped real humans. A drug called desmoteplase, developed from the anticoagulants in vampire bat saliva, has been used to help stroke patients recover.
Question 5: Which of these vampires can survive without consuming any blood?
Answer: B. In the True Blood universe, some vampires that are very old no longer require blood to survive. In the wild, however, vampire bats must consume blood at least every 3 days or they will starve to death. Reciprocal blood exchanges, where an individual who has fed will regurgitate and share its blood meal with an unsuccessful roost mate, help these bats decrease their risk of starvation.
Question 7: Which one of these vampires can spray a foul-smelling liquid when threatened?
Answer: B. Although Jonathan Rhys Myers delivers plenty of stinging insults on NBC’s Dracula, only the white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi) is able to spit a nasty-smelling liquid at its perceived enemies.
8. BONUS QUESTION! Here are two species of vampire bats. Which one prefers to feed on the blood of mammals?
common vampire bat white-winged vampire bat
Answer: A. The common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus, is the only vampire bat that primarily feeds on mammalian blood. The other two species of vampire bats, including the white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi) pictured here and the hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata), both prefer to consume the blood of birds.
0-2: Sparkly Megaderma (false vampire bat). Not quite a true vampire, but at least you’re cute.
3-5: Baby vamp/vampire bat pup. You’ve still got a lot to learn, spider monkey.
5-7: Hungry Dracula. Almost a badass vampire - but you might need a bottle of True Blood or a shared blood meal first.
8: Former Viking turned vampire turned bat biologist. You’re a true expert at tween pop culture AND the ecology of hematophagous critters!