Remains Of A 100000-Year-Old Giant Vampire Bat Found In A Cave In Argentina

The jaw of an extinct species of a giant vampire bat has been found in a cave in the city of Miramar, on the Buenos Aires coast of Argentina.

Giant Vampire Bat
Artist’s impression of D. draculae in the sloth burrow. 
Credit: Miramar Museum.

It is the Desmodus draculae, which lived during the Pleistocene and Holocene in warm areas of Central and South America. The causes of their disappearance are not known, so the current find could help fill the huge gaps in the history of these amazing animals.

Vampires today are mammals known to feed on the blood of animals, that is, they are blood-sucking. They constitute a variety of bats, which includes only three living species, such as the common vampire ( Desmodus rotundus ), white-winged vampire ( Diaemus youngi ), and the hairy-legged vampire ( Diphylla ecaudata ).

They are the only family of bats in the world that arouses curiosity from the legends of Transylvania and its creepy Count Dracula. But in reality, they are peaceful animals that feed on the blood of animals, and sometimes humans, for a few minutes without causing discomfort, “said Mariano Magnussen, from the Paleontological Laboratory of the Miramar Museum of Natural Sciences and a researcher at the Azara Foundation, where the new specimen is saved.

“The only bad thing is that they can transmit rabies or other diseases if they are infected. Surely their prehistoric representatives had similar behaviors, “added the expert.

Rare fossils Of Giant Vampire Bat

“The meaning of the fossils is varied, to begin with, the fossil remains of bats are rare in Argentina,” said paleontologist Santiago Brizuela from the National University of Mar del Plata. “It also confirms the presence of the species in mid-latitudes and during the Pleistocene.”

We have known about D. draculae since it was first formally described in 1988, although we don’t know much else about it. Until relatively recently: some remains have been discovered that are recent enough not to have fossilized, suggesting that they may have disappeared a few hundred years ago.

It was also the largest vampire bat known to have ever existed – it was around 30 percent larger than its closest living relative, today’s common vampire bat, with a wingspan estimated to be around 50 centimeters (20 inches).

The jaw found is certainly special. It was recovered from sediments in a cave not far from the Buenos Aires city of Miramar. This is important because, at the time the bat lived, the cave was the burrow of a giant sloth, probably from the Mylodontidae family.

Giant Vampire Bat
Mandible of D. draculae found. 
Credit: Miramar Museum.

This could be a great clue to how bats lived. Some researchers think that D. draculae preyed on rodents or deer, but others suspect that its prey was megafauna. And finding remains of a bat so closely associated with Mylodontidae habitat could mean the latter is correct.

If so, this would be consistent with theories that bat species declined following the megafauna’s extinction some 10,000 years ago, although, with a single specimen, it is impossible to conclude anything definitive.

“This has two possibilities,” Brizuela said. «One, who lived there and also took advantage of the inhabitants; the other possibility is that [the bat] was preyed upon by an owl and was regurgitated in the cave. ‘

Finally, the fossil could reveal something about the ancient climate of the region. The common vampire bat makes its home about 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of where the remains were discovered. This suggests, the researchers say, that the fossil site’s climate was different 100,000 years ago than it is today.

In turn, this suggests that the decline and eventual extinction of D. draculae likely had multiple contributing factors — not just a lack of prey availability, but an increasingly inhospitable climate.

The team’s research has been published in Ameghiniana.

Source: ScienceAlert / Museo de Miramar.

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