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Are Vampires Named for the Bat Species?

Vampire bats are species of bats that utilize blood as their only food source. There are actually three species of vampire bats, all of which are native to the Americas: Desmodus rotundus, or the common vampire bat; Diaemus youngi, or the white-winged vampire bat; and Diphylla ecaudata, or the hairy-legged vampire bat. These bats got their common names from the blood-sucking vampires of legend. Although the bats were discovered during the 16th century, their popular name did not come into common use until the 18th century, when stories about vampires began to proliferate in the Americas.

More facts about vampire bats:

  • All three species of vampire bats are found primarily in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

  • Although vampires are said to feast mainly on human blood, vampire bats tend to feed on the blood of cattle, horses, pigs and birds. There are recorded instances of these bats attacking humans, however.

  • A vampire bat does not actually make use of fangs and suck the blood from its victims in the manner of the vampires of legend. Instead, the bats use their razor-sharp teeth to slit the skin and then lap the blood as it flows from the victim.

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