What is a Vampire Bat?
The vampire bat is a genus of blood-sucking bats of the carnivorous family Phyllostomatidae, distinguished by leaf-like nasal appendages, three joints to the middle finger, and often well-developed median incisors. They inhabit South and Central America. Owing to the inaccuracy of travelers' accounts, which have ascribed bloodsucking habits to a large fruit-eating species, the effect of their attacks has been much exaggerated.
The true sanguinivorous vampire bat is now known to be a small species not more than three inches in length and distinguished by its trenchant and enlarged upper incisor and canine teeth, capable of slicing the skin like a razor; the very much reduced molar teeth; and the extremely narrow lumen of the alimentary canal and especially of the esophagus, all peculiarities which adapt it to an exclusive diet of blood. This is Desmodus rufus, and a second closely related bat is Diphylla ecaudata. The former is abundant in wooded regions from southern Mexico to Chile; the latter occurs in Brazil. The vampire bat was recorded by Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates during their famous Amazon journey of 1848, and other travelers have confirmed the evidence of these naturalists. In Panama the bite of the vampire bat has been found to transmit an equine trypanosomiasis from infected to healthy animals.
Owing to the error mentioned above, the large fruit bat is still called the vampire, and as Vampyrus the name has become permanently fixed to it in scientific nomenclature. The common species (vampyrum spectrum) inhabits Brazil, and is about six or seven inches in length; but the spread of the wing membrane may measure over two feet. The body is covered with a light brown hair.