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Hairy-Legged Vampire Bats Were Caught Feeding on Human Blood for the First Time

The species used to rely exclusively on bird blood, but times are changing.

A hairy-legged vampire bat.
A hairy-legged vampire bat. Gerry Carter/CC BY-SA 4.0

When a neighborhood changes, the food options do, too. Hole-in-the-wall joints become, say, avocado-toast emporiums. Whole bodegas go organic.

Right now, no one knows that better than the hairy-legged vampire bat. New research from Brazil shows that the species, which once relied exclusively on bird blood, has incorporated a new food source: people.

Researchers from the Federal University of Pernambuco tested feces from a hairy-legged colony in northeast Brazil, and found human blood, New Scientist reports. “We were quite surprised,” the lead researcher told the outlet. In the past, the bats have been quite picky, choosing to abstain from food rather than drink mammal blood.

But as humans move into the forest, and more feathery snacks are driven out, the bats are apparently changing their palates. The researchers also found chicken blood in the samples, showing that the bats were likely visiting local farms for dinner.

This is more than just freaky—a bat bite can transfer parasites or infectious diseases, and garlic and silver bullets aren’t much help. Researchers are currently following up with nearby residents to assess the frequency and timing of the bites.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.