Panama – Recent studies have shown that even the most blood-sucking species of vampire bats are frequently targeted by other vampire bat species as well.

Gerald Carter, who studies these bats at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, wanted to see how they and their grooming habits stacked up against others and conducted a study on hundreds of bat’s specimens. From 53 species, they studied the prevalence of parasites and found that two vampire bat species had some of the heaviest loads of bat flies.

Vampire bats are bats whose food source is blood, a diet called hematophagy. Three bat species feed solely on blood, including the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), the hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus young). Credit:

Only three out of the nearly 1,400 known bat species are vampires, but Tommy Leung, a parasitologist at the University of New England in Australia, called hematophagy (eating blood) a very common thing, found in over fourteen thousand living animal species, even in groups that most people might not have suspected.

“Blood-feeding is a lifestyle which has evolved independently in many groups of animals,” Leung said to National Geographic.

Also, the study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE, Carter and co-author Lauren Leffer found that the bats are engaging in certain behaviors such as social grooming that aren’t common outside of primates, spending as much as 6 percent of their waking hours grooming one another, 14 times more than that of other bat species.

It proved information on bats’ well developed social lives, at least compared to other bats. For example, they are unique in their habit of sharing blood-meals with other adults to whom they are not related. Risking starvation, they’re forced to share to survive.

Carter also published a study this week in the journal Hormones and Behavior, showing that intranasal oxytocin made vampires share more food, especially females who were given the hormone likewise spent more time grooming one another. Oxytocin plays an important role in bonding in many animals, including humans, and, as the duo has shown, in vampire bats as well.

Source: Newsweek