Sunday, 25 February 2018

DNA secrets of how vampire bats became bloodthirsty

By Helen Briggs BBC News
19 February 2018

DNA analysis is giving clues to how the vampire bat can survive on blood alone.

The bat can drink up to half its weight in blood a day unlike other relatives, which dine on fruit, nectar or insects.

Blood is low in nutrients and can harbour deadly viruses.

Vampire bats have key differences in genes involved in immunity and food metabolism compared with other bats.

The researchers say the bat's gut microbes are also distinct.

They found evidence of more than 280 types of bacteria in the bat's droppings that would have made most other mammals unwell.

"The data suggests that there is a close evolutionary relationship between the gut microbiome and the genome of the vampire bat for adaptation to sanguivory (feeding exclusively on blood)," said study author, Dr Marie Zepeda Mendoza of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

The common vampire bat harbours many genes that have been selected to cope with blood feeding, she added.

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