Thursday, April 07, 2005

Nightmare fuel

(Hat Tip: Ghost of a Flea)

On the whole, I think bats are pretty cool. They're also fantastic bug-eating machines, and so as far as I'm concerned, if having a lot of bats around means fewer mosqitoes, I'm all for it.

Vampire bats, on the other hand, are like mosquitoes in mammalian form. And if the very idea of a bat swooping down to have a little nip at your jugular creeps you out, then don't click here, because you don't want to read the following:

Vampire bats' thirst for blood has driven them to evolve an unexpected sprinting ability. Most bats are awkward on the ground, but the common vampire bat can bound along at more than 1 metre per second.

One meter per second isn't that fast. But while you should be able to outrun them easily, the fact that you have to outrun them sends me over the edge.

Researchers made the discovery at a ranch in Trinidad, with five adult male vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus), which they caught using cows as bait.

Whoa, . . . stop right there. Cows as bait? There aren't many animals for which you'd use cows as bait. (A Tyrannosaurus Rex comes to mind.) And those animals who would see a cow as "bait" are not the sort of animals I want around me.

We continue:

They put the bats on a treadmill inside a Plexiglas cage and recorded their movements with high-speed video. . . . After one short walk on the treadmill the bats mastered both the dynamics of the machine and recognized the purr of the motor. "Vampire bats are ridiculously smart," Riskin says. "As smart as a dog."

Okay, the idea of bats on a treadmill is a hilarious image. But take a look at this and tell me if that doesn't completely creep you out. And remember . . . "vampire bats are ridiculously smart." (And also remember that you have to outrun them.)

In the wild, vampire bats feed on the blood of large animals such as cattle, horses and pigs. They sneak up over the ground and make small incisions in the skin (usually the heel) of sleeping prey.

"Bats take a long time to feed," explains Colin Catto of the London-based Bat Conservation Trust. "If they were trying to hover for all that time they would expend an awful lot of energy."

See, there's nothing to fear from a bat on the wing. It's the bat that's loping along the ground at you that you've got to worry about. Let's go to the video again.

That's enough fuel for more than a dozen nightmares.


At 9:04 AM, Blogger Abigail Brayden said...

Ick...I didn't even watch the video and that gives me the chills!

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Hey, any chance we can air-drop some of these guys over the PETA offices around the country?


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