The Hindu: Hangout with the vampire

My fortnightly column in THE HINDU’s YOUNG WORLD

August 8, 2014

Hangout with the vampire

 AREFA TEHSIN

What is the Greater False Vampire – a bloodsucking mythical being or a bat? Read on to find out.

Won’t it be cool if you had a pair of leathery wings, glistening canines, and could hang upside down? Being a vampire won’t take much getting used to. Too bad we don’t get these groovy vampire bats in India. But fortunately, we do have the false vampires.

The Greater False Vampire bats found in Asia do not drink blood like the real ones do. The real vampires found in the tropical forests of the New World have special front teeth for sucking blood. The humid forest-dwelling false vampires, on the other hand, prey on small birds and bats, frogs, and large insects. They are tailless and have an erect nose leaf, almost 10mm in length. Fancy! Though not as awesome as the blood-sucking teeth.

You must know that bats are individualistic. Different species of bats, despite roosting together, keep distance from each other. All kinds of bats live in colonies. Normally they hunt, sleep and live singly, even if they are living together. There are hardly any bats that can gather the wit to roost with the false vampires in their hangouts due to fear of being devoured by them.

These flying mammals hunt at night, many a time when it is darker than the insides of your throat. They use supersonic sound, called Echolocation, to fly and hunt. The sounds they emit strike the objects in their path. It is deflected and the echo is picked up by their keen hearing. The warning echoes help them locate obstacles with precision. In fact, these high frequency sound waves can be emitted 100 times per second as the bat stalks its prey.

Batty existence

The false vampires prefer to live in caves, ancient tombs, abandoned mines, attics of houses, temples and rock-cut dwellings of humans. Unlike the large Flying Foxes (fruit bats), they don’t like trees, and caves are their ideal dwelling place. Sometimes, on the hottest days, you can see the Flying Foxes fanning themselves with their wings throughout the day while the false vampires doze in their pleasant, dark realms. Else, they hang coolly, using their hind legs as toothpicks or to rid their fur of fleas.

Fact File

Body size – 65-95mm

Weight – 40-60gm

Eating Habit –

Carnivorous

Fur – Bluish grey

with brownish

underside

Only real vampire bats use their sharp teeth to slice an animal’s (occasionally humans’) body parts to lap a little blood. What do they call the anticoagulant present in this bat’s saliva? Draculin!

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