Monday, October 31, 2005

Animal of the Week October 31, 2005 -- Hallowe'en special

Crank up the dry ice, buy some laxative chocolates for the trick-or-treaters, and arm yourself with a tacky plastic skull on a stick, it's Halloween -- and in a rare, themed edition, this week's animal of the week is Desmodus rotundus (common vampire bat) **lightening flashes, torrential rain begins**.

These most ghoulish of all creatures sicken me with their devilry, which I shall herein describe. On dark, still, tropical nights in Central and South America, vampire bats are abroad (as in out and about, not on holiday). Flitting along close to the ground, by use of echolocation and smell the bats locate sleeping farm animals, such as innocent lambs. Once they have selected their hapless victim, they land on the ground and using their unholy heat sensors locate blood vessels close to the skin. Vampire bats then use razor sharp fangs to slash a throbbing vein; chemicals in their saliva anaesthetise the wound and stop the blood from clotting while they gorge themselves.

Having had their fill, with blood-smattered chops and fangs scintillating in the moonlight, the bats return to their roosts where they cower from the just light of dawn. At about the size of a human thumb with a 30 cm wingspan, these evil beasts are the scourge of godly (as in holy not as in Kevin Godley and Lol Creme) pastoralists of Latin America. They live in rank clusters of up to 40 individuals in hollow trees, if a vampire bat is unsuccessful in its attempts to find a blood feast one evening it will rapidly starve to death, fortunately one of its contemptible neighbours will regurgitate some of its sickening supper to sustain the other to the next evening. The altruism* shown by these filthy winged demons of the tropical night is clearly a mockery of all that is good.
Felicitous Samhain!
*Not completely selfless, this is an example of reciprocal altruism: bats that feed another one night can expect to receive the same service should they fail to find food one night, and bats that get fed but never feed, will eventually be ignored by their roostmates.


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