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Vampire Bats Love Bacon Too

Apr 14, 2015 01:48 AM EDT
vampire bat on pig

(Photo : Sandstein - CC0)

You think dogs and humans are the only things to love bacon? Think again. New research has found that the common vampire bat likes pig blood more than any other warm meal it may chose to take while winging around at night.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the Journal of Mammalogy, which details how a trio of researchers at the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil recently investigated the feeding preferences of Desmodus rotundus, commonly known as the vampire bat.

Traditionally, if biologists want to know about an animal's feeding habits, all they have to do is look at its feces. The signatures of various plants can be found through chemical analyses and bones obviously indicate what certain predators enjoy.

However, in the case of a animal that only takes blood meals, this clearly won't work. Instead, the scientist trio took to DNA analysis, evaluating how much of each fecal sample from 157 captured vampire bats contained chicken, pig, dog, cattle, and even human DNA.

"It's surprising that you can even get DNA out of this," Gerry Carter, a University of Maryland researcher who was not involved in the study but has worked on similar projects in the past, recently said to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He explained that while DNA analysis may be the only viable option for assessing vampire bat feeding habits, it's still exceptionally difficult to gather the adequate information, as very little genetic material survives digestion.

According to the study, the researchers avoided complications by hastily refrigerating samples as soon as they were collected and then modified an existing technique to isolate and then amplify genetic material.

So what were the results of this hard work? The researchers learned that bats really like pig blood. About 30 percent of all the DNA identified was pig, despite the fact that chickens and other animals heavily outnumbered pigs in the villages where the bats were captured. In fact, after accounting for the availability of each domestic animal, the team determined that vampire bats were seven times more likely to feed on pigs than if they simply fed on the closest thing with blood.

And thankfully, despite what you may hear about these bats and their monstrous namesake, no human DNA was found in any of the samples. It's bacon - pigs, that is - that these bloodsuckers can't get enough of.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS.

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