By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung
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Shot on camera by professional nature photographer, Nicolas Reusens in Mexico, the incredible images show the only parasitic mammal in its natural habitat.
Desmodus Rotundus, also known as the common vampire bat mainly feed on the blood of livestock, by using its razor-sharp teeth to cut open the skin of its hosts and laps up their blood with its long tongue.
Nicolas, 41, said: “They are one of the most social of bat species, with a number of cooperative behaviours such as social grooming and food sharing. Because they feed on livestock and may be a carrier of rabies, the common vampire bat is considered a pest in some places."
Nicolas spent four days capturing pictures of the bats during a project with the Mexican Veterinary Authorities, to promote their field work against rabies and other bat transmitted diseases.
The common vampire bat is short-haired with silver-grey fur on its undersides, demarcated from the darker fur on its back.
They have a deeply grooved lower lip, and a flat, leaf-shaped nose. The bats also have a well- developed clawed thumb on each wing, which is used to climb onto prey.
In order to complete the field work around the scene, Nicolas was required to capture images of the vampire bats inflight and also feeding on prey.
He said: “There are many bat caves in Mexico, but only a few with vampire bats. Although these bats will roost with about 45 other bat species, they do tend to be the most dominant.
“We entered a very stinky cave, the smell was so intense that we had to use masks, also in order to contain some of the diseases around their living areas.”
Nicolas and his team then had to wait for the bats to feed on its prey. By contacting locals, they were able to find out when the bats had been feeding during the last few days.
The Swedish photographer said: “These bats feed on livestock and they usually return to the same victim in order to feed easier, as the wound is still open from the night before."
The common vampire bat feeds primarily on mammalian blood, particularly that of livestock such as cattle and horses.
Nicolas said: “When a bat selects a target, it lands on it or jumps up onto it from the ground, usually targeting the rump, flank, or neck of its prey; heat sensors in the nose help it to detect blood vessels near the surface of the skin.
“It then pierces the animal's skin with its teeth, biting away a small flap, and laps up the blood with its tongue, which has lateral grooves adapted to this purpose.”
Vampire bats average from around 9 cm long with a wingspan of 18 cm and they commonly weigh about 25-40 grams, but their weight can drastically increase after a single feeding.
While most other bats have almost completely lost the ability to manoeuvre on land, vampire bats are an exception.
Nicolas said: “Vampire bats can run using a unique, bounding gait in which the forelimbs are used instead of the hind limbs to propel forward, as the wings are much more powerful than the legs.
“This fast movement is somehow creepy for us humans, but the reality is that this animals are more afraid of us than we are about them. I never felt unsafe or threatened, even inside the cave with around 60 vampire bats.”
He added: “Vampire bats have a very unfair bad reputation. I only ask respect for these animals in their habitat, Drácula is just a myth.”