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13 vampire animals

By: Russell McLendon on Oct. 1, 2010, 11:30 a.m.
Common vampire bat

Photo: By belizar/Shutterstock

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Vampire bat

Bats are a staple of vampire lore, but not many of them actually walk the walk: Of the roughly 1,000 known bat species, only three drink blood. Two of those — the hairy-legged vampire bat and the white-winged vampire bat — mainly prey on birds, while the common vampire bat (pictured) is a bit more versatile.

It evolved to drink blood from a variety of Central and South American wildlife, but as growing farms and cities shrank that food supply, it started targeting the intruders instead. Today it feeds mainly on cattle, horses and other livestock, as well as humans, a diet that likely helped it avoid extinction. Its bite alone isn't dangerous, but it can spread rabies, which poses a public-health threat across much of its habitat. This year, for example, four children died in Peru after vampire bats sparked a rabies outbreak among the local Awajun tribe.

Watch the video below for a look at how vampire bats sneak up on their hosts: