Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Juicy Lives of Bloodsuckers

Vampire Bat
The vampire bat (desmodus rotundus) is the original Prince of Darkness. this furry little flying mammal is found in South america and only shows itself at night. It tends to target sleeping mammals, and like most nocturnal animals , the vampire bat has enhanced senses to help find its way around in the dark. Its special skill is echolocation , which it uses to navigate at night as well as to locate warm-blooded victims

Like Dracula ,vampire bats have two sharp fangs that pierce the skin to get at the blood, but that is where the similarities end. For unlike Dracula, vampire bats do not suck blood. Instead, they lap up blood from their victims. Why ?

Their saliva contains a substance called dracullin, which prevents their victims' blood from clotting. It is dracullin that allows vampire bats to use their tongues to lap up free-flowing blood from the wound. A bite from a vampire bat is not fatal but these mammals may carry the deadly rabies virus , so if one does bite you ,see a Doctor right away !

Misunderstood ?
Despite their reputation, vampire bats are actually quite friendly to their fellow bats. They are known to regurgitate blood to feed a member of their volony and in turn, they can expect to receive blood donations from other bats when they can't find food. Scientists have also found that vampire bats have a sophisticated way to catch cheaters who don't share blood with a starving comrade. When the bats groom each other, they take the oppurtunity to check each other's stomach for fullness. The bat with the big tummy would then be forced to cough up blood for a less fortunate bat !

Sea Lampreys
Not all bloodsuckers need sophisticated equipment to survive. One of th eworld's first and most successful vampire is the Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). This 360 million-year-old species is so ancient ,it existed long before Dinosaurs walked the earth !

Believed to be the ancestor of fish , a sea lamprey has a quick and dirty way of extracting blood. It simply uses its sharp teeth to break the skin and then uses a rasping motion to suck out blood and tissue ! It only stops feeding after the poor victim has been sucked dry, usually about seven hours later. Its method is primitive but highly effective !

Kiss of Death
South Americans are used to being "kissed" by a stranger in their sleep, but this kissing stranger is no Latin Lover. Also known as the kissing bug (Triatoma Protracta), this pesky critter creeps out at night to suck the blood of its victims by "kissing" then on the cheeks, lips, and ears. The bug bites leave behind itchy wounds and also spreads Chagas disease, a parasitic disease common in South america


Warning : If you find a leech sucking on your blood , do not attempt to remove it by burning it or applying salt on it ! This will cause the sucker to vomit all over th wound ! This would infect the wound further. The best way to remove the leech is to slip a fingernail between you and the leech and break the suction. Wash the wound with soap and water and make sure it doesn't get infected

Bed bugs
Another vampire that likes to hang out in bed rooms is the bedbug (Cimex lectularius). Bedbugs are tiny, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping humans and warm-blooded animals

They are experts at hiding and can be difficult to detect. Humans often unwittingly help bedbugs spread from one place to another by reusing old mattresses , and recycling infested old furniture and clothing. So watch out before you go to sleep and don't let the bedbugs bite !

Beware of Bloodsuckers

Blood -sucking animals spread infectious diseases like rabies , dengue fever and malaria , so always use caution and protect yourself from these real-life Draculas !

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