How Vampire Bats Aim Their Bites

FreelanceCat By FreelanceCat, 11th Aug 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>News>Science

South American vampire bats use a special receptor, that is found on their muzzles, in order to pick up the heat their victims’ blood vessels emit and sink their teeth in the juiciest spot.

South American vampire bats use a special receptor, that is found on their muzzles, in order to pick up the heat their victims’ blood vessels emit and sink their teeth in the juiciest spot.

Most bats feed on insects or nectar. In South America however there are three kinds of vampire bats that prefer to feed on fresh blood. They attack, mainly companion animals, during the night and consume 70-80% of their body weights during each meal.

Occasionally, vampire bats will get a taste of human blood, often infecting their victims with rabies.

Researchers from the University of California, in San Fransico, examined members of the most common of the three vampire bat species, Desmodus Rotondus. The individuals were captured in Venezuela.

What the researchers found on the bats’ heads was a receptor, which is activated by heat. This receptor can detect the heat emitted by blood vessels from up to 20 cm away.

This biological "sonar" with which the vampire bats are equipped and which allows them to understand exactly where they need to bite their victims to gain maximum benefits, is an evolutionary trait.

Trpv1, the receptor’s gene, can be found in all other bat species, as well as all mammals. In its original form, the receptor causes a sense of pain when the skin is exposed to high temperatures, usually higher than 43°C.

Desmondus Rotondus has this receptor in its original form all over its body, apart from its head. The modified form of Trpv1 can be found in this vampire bat’s muzzle area. There, the receptor is activated in lower temperatures (approximately 31°C) and, instead of causing pain, it guides the bats’ teeth to the right spot.

The temperature level at which the receptor is activated was measured after the researchers inserted the gene in frog embrya, which are easier than bats to be studied in the lab.

It is still unclear at what point in the course of evolution was the modified form of the receptor introduced. The researchers speculate that this trait evolved about 25 million years ago. This was when vampire bats cut off themselves from the evolutionary line of their relatives that feed on insects and nectar.

Tags

Bite, Bites, Blood, Desmondus Rotondus, Evolution, Insects, Nectar, Rabies, Receptor, South America, Vampire, Vampire Bat, Vampire Bats

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author avatar FreelanceCat
Curious by nature, this cat loves to investigate and write about all current issues

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author avatar Retired
12th Aug 2011 (#)

Very nice read...informative...thanks for sharing....

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