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100,000-Year-Old Fossil of Largest-Ever Vampire Bat Found

Hey everyone, how’s your week going? Pretty good? If so, that’s great. But we’re here to ruin it for you because we have…bat news. And while it has nothing to do with coronaviruses, it’s still haunting.

Scientists have described in a new study the fossilized jawbone of a 100,000-year-old vampire bat. One that was relatively massive and apparently had no trouble drinking mammal blood.

SyFy Wire picked up on the new study published in the Argentinian journal Ameghiniana. Dr. Santiago Brizuela, a paleontologist at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata in Argentina, led the team of scientists that aimed to describe the extinct vampire bat’s fossil.

Desmodus

In their study, Brizuela and his colleagues describe the prehistoric jawbone paleontologists discovered inside of a cave near southeastern Buenos Aires. Extrapolating from the jawbone, the paleontologists say this particular vampire bat—which belonged to the species, Desmodus draculae—had a 20-inch-long wingspan and a body mass of two ounces. Which may sound small, but is huge for this species of bat. In fact, it appears this particular specimen is the largest-ever vampire bat in history.

“The size of Desmodus draculae was larger than that of a computer keyboard and significantly larger than that of its living relatives,” Brizuela told Sci-News. The paleontologist also said that this specimen’s skull is up to 30% larger than those belonging to extant vampire bats. (Incidentally, this bat species name is indeed a nod to the legends of Count Dracula.)

Batfossil

As for why D. draculae grew to be so large, the species was a product of its time.

Brizuela speculates its large size was in line with the general trend of enlargement amongst megafauna in the Pleistocene. Many other animals, including land mammals, were exceptionally large compared to their living counterparts. And D. draculae needed to keep up.

Above is a look at the skull and jawbone of a common vampire bat for reference. Note that living vampire bats have, on average, a wingspan of only two to three inches. And they only weigh about half as much or less than this extinct specimen. Both living and extant vampire bat species, however, love to suck blood for sustenance. The bat fossil was even found near a giant sloth and it’s possible the flying nightmare feasted on the jumbo placental mammal. It probably had no interest in humans, however, unlike today’s vampire bats.

Feature image: Desmodus
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