New DNA method of screening pinpoints whose blood the vampire bat is drinking

A new method to screen the blood meals.

Two vampire bats take flight Image: Sherri and Brock Fenton
Two vampire bats take flight Image: Sherri and Brock Fenton

The common vampire bat wants to feast upon the blood of residential creatures, for example, cows and pigs, gambling transmission of pathogens, for example, rabies.

Apart from feeding on domestic animals, vampire bats occasionally took blood from wild tapirs, so the method may be useful for determining the distribution of elusive mammal prey.

A new study by the University of Bristol have developed a new method of screening vampire bat DNA could help tackle rabies. The method samples with a high rate of success to determine exactly which animals the bats have obtained blood meals from.

During experiments, DNA metabarcoding from samples and identified the vampire bat’s diet. They also observed insights into its population structure.

University of Bristol co-author Professor Gareth Jones from the School of Biological Sciences, said: “It is great to gain insight into both predator and prey from DNA droppings and blood meals.

“Apart from feeding on domestic animals, vampire bats occasionally took blood from wild tapirs, so the method may be useful for determining the distribution of elusive mammal prey.

“It is also of note that we found no evidence of vampire bats feeding on humans from the DNA left over from their dinners.”

Professor Kristine Bohmann, study lead from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen said: “Based on our study, in the future DNA metabarcoding can be used to empower projections of vampire bat-related transmission risks, and this can be used to develop strategies to prevent exposure to rabies and humans and animals.”

The research is published in the Molecular Ecology Resources.