Vampire Bats Have A ‘Diminished’ Sense Of Taste From Just Eating Blood

A series of 13 different genes has allowed vampire bats to survive on blood alone for millions of years.

Contrary to what is commonly thought, vampire bats are not gigantic beasts out for human blood. On the contrary, most of them measure up to 9 centimeters long, at most. Among the Latin American jungles, they feed on the bloodstream of mammals much larger than themselves—but They are not responsible for sucking all the blood.

The evolutionary race to survive on blood alone It hasn’t been easy, say scientists at the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research in Frankfurt. In a recently published study in Science AdvancesGerman geneticists say that the key is in 13 different genes, that allow vampire bats to survive on this food alone. With the passage of natural history, this genetic trace was completely lost.

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A genetic instructable for eating blood

Uwe Schmidt/Wikimedia Commons

For the research, the genetics of 27 different species of vampire bats. Evolutionarily, these animals have adapted their digestive systems to process the blood of other species. And what’s more: they are the only mammals that can survive just eating these fluids in the world.

The Frankfurt geneticists concluded that, evolutionarily, vampire bats created an ‘instruction book’ for their genes to adapt to eating blood. From this, your entire organism aligned itself to this purpose:

“We found previously unknown gene losses that are associated with reduced insulin secretion, limited glycogen stores, and unique gastric physiology,” the authors write in the study.

Some fragments of this evolutionary instructive simply lost over the years. However, these missing parts could be the key for these animals to acquire the unique ability to survive just by eating blood. However, scientists say that the genes of vampire bats have adapted to having “a diminished sense of taste, much better for drinking blood,” they explain to ScienceNews.

Viewed this way, the genes of vampire bats evolved so that the drink of blood is not so bitter. On the other hand, your metabolism is naturally designed to take advantage of the blood of other living things and convert it into sugar. Eventually, this substance becomes the vital energy that allows them to take flight.

Until now, it is not known for sure if it was the diet that modified the genetic course of the vampire bats, or if they adapted to eating blood. However, the Frankfurt scientists assure that the impacts are appreciated, even, at the cognitive level in contemporary species.

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Vampire Bats Have A ‘Diminished’ Sense Of Taste From Just Eating Blood – National Geographic