Vampire Bats Attack Cattle as Rain Forest Falls

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From National Geographic comes this report of my second favorite thing, animal misbehavior. 

Vampire bats in Latin America are turning their fangs on cattle as rain forest is being cleared to make way for livestock, new research shows.

Scientists made the find using a technique similar to a breathalyzer to study the diet of vampire bats in Costa Rica.

The researchers discovered that the bats are finding meatier victims to sink their fangs into as the habitat of wild forest mammals disappears and is turned into livestock pasture.

A study led by Christian Voigt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany, found the blood-seeking bats are switching to cattle from rain forest prey such as tapirs and piglike peccaries.

The study team investigated which animals the bats were targeting by analyzing the chemical signatures, called isotopes, in the carbon dioxide they exhaled soon after eating.

Cattle and rain forest mammals feed on different plants that can be distinguished by their carbon isotopes. Since these chemical clues are present in prey’s blood, the signature in the bats’ breath varies with their meals.

The study clearly indicated that the vampires’ most recent victims were almost always cattle, the team said.

The findings don’t mean that vampire bats prefer bovine blood, the team said. Instead, they suggest that livestock are simply easier for the bats to find.

I can never read about tapirs without thinking how juicy and delicious they must be. I was once promised a wildlife-viewing tour through the rainforest by a shady Panama City tour guide, who then took me to the Panama City National Zoo which,  yes, was in the rainforest, because everything in Panama is in the rainforest. During this tour he told me all about which animals were good to eat. The tapirs were delicious, while the jaguars wished to eat me.

With dramatic gestures then directed at a bored-looking tapir in a nearby pen, my guide then instructed me in the best way to slaughter a tapir. The lecture probably would have been more helpful if I spoke Spanish or if he spoke English.

Panama’s a kickass place.

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Delicious Baird’s Tapir from Belize, Via Wikipedia.

Top, vampire bat picture taken at Sangayan Island, Paracas National Reserve, Departamento Ica, Peru, in March 2005. Via Wikipedia.

Below, worker holding common vampire bat in Trinidad, 1956, by Arthur Greenhall, via Wikipedia.

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