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Navadni vampirski netopir (Desmodus rotundus) Vir: Wikipedia
Vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus). Source: Wikipedia

Bats in self-isolation

Not only people, but also vampire bats self-isolate when they feel unwell. So a recent study showed.

Vampire bats live in colonies in Central and South America. At night, they fly in from their homes and search for their prey with special senses.

They feed on the blood of cows, pigs, horses and birds, and very rarely bite a human. They are very social animals. If some bats in the colony are hungry, others feed them in exchange for grooming, scientists have discovered.

“In the laboratory, we have already shown in captive bats that sick bats are less likely to care for others and make fewer contact calls. Now we were interested in how they behave in the natural environment,” said Gerald G. Carter, one of the authors of the study.

Vampirski netopir (Desmodus rotundus) med hranjenjem. Vir: Wikipedia
Vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) while feeding. Source: Wikipedia

This time, researchers took 31 females from a single colony of common vampire bats living in the Central American state of Belize.

Sixteen were injected with a molecule that made them feel unwell. Fifteen were given a placebo, so they were given an injection with no effect.

They were all equipped with tiny computer backpacks no larger than a one-cent coin. The proximity sensors in these monitored the contacts between them.

Če ne zbolijo, so vampirski netopirji zelo družabne živali. Vir: Wikipedia
When healthy, bats are very social animals. Source: Wikipedia

They then dropped them back into nature and watched them move. A few hours later, the injection started working and they got the feeling that they were sick.

The feeling of illness greatly changed their behaviour.

Sick bats were less likely to come into contact with others in the colony, kept more to themselves, or socialized only with other sufferers.

***

The original version of this article was published on December 8th.

English translation courtesy of JL FlannerTotal Slovenia News, an English language website with news from and about Slovenia.

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