Loss of gene allows vampire bats to live only on blood

When bat have been intimately associated with vampires for centuries, there are in fact only three species of blood-drinking bats. Instead, most of them eat fruit, insects, nectar, and small animals, like frogs and fish. Blood is low in calories, while being rich in iron, protein and other substances, making it a terrible food source. Now, a group of scientists has find out How and why those vampire bats are the only mammals that can live only blood tonic diet.

When scientists compared the genomes of common vampire bats with 26 other species, the scientists found 13 genes in blood-sucking mammals that were either inactive or missing. Three of those damages were reported in another study published in 2014, with all of them showing decreased taste receptivity in vampire bats. The team says the remaining 10 missing genes are new discoveries.

The loss of a gene called REP15 showed enhanced iron absorption in the animals’ gastrointestinal cells, which were also rapidly excreted and excreted. This prevents iron overload that can have serious adverse effects. The absence of two other genes allows glucose to persist longer in bats and prevents hypoglycemia, since the blood contains minimal carbohydrates. Another absent gene may also be a consequence of “far-reaching morphological and physiological changes” in the stomachs of common vampire bats. Rather than being a muscular organ, their stomachs are expandable structures used to store large amounts of fluid and serve as the primary site of fluid absorption.

The loss of a gene even contributed “to the evolution of the distinctive social behaviors of vampire bats.” Since they can’t last very long without food, because blood is so low in calories, vampire bats can regurgitate their meal and share it with their fellow humans. They can also follow people who have shared with them in the past and will extend help to them in the future if needed. Hannah Kim Frank, a bat researcher at Tulane University, told AP: “It’s strange and amazing that vampire bats can survive on blood – they’re really weird, even among bats.”

Research reveals that the loss of genes that allow them to live outside of the bloodline doesn’t make vampire bats any less exotic or appealing. You can read the full study in Scientific advance Journal.

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