A small bone found in a cave in Argentina will shed light on the history of one of the most mysterious extinct animals in paleontology: Desmodus draculae. It is a giant vampire bat that inhabited the Latin American continent more than 100,000 years ago.
We often talk about vampires (real, not horror ones) as if they were a single species, when in fact they are not. There are currently about 1,400 species of blood-sucking bats. Three of these species, the common vampire (Desmodus rotundus), hairy leg vampire (Diphylla ecaudata), and a vampire with white wingsDiaemus young) live in Latin America and believe they have the same common ancestor, Desmodus draculae a giant vampire.
Although we have formally known its existence since 1988, the giant vampire has proven to be a very elusive extinct species. So far, only a handful of fossils have been found in six caves in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Belize, but the remains are not enough to detail the species and its place in the ecosystem. This problem is common to other bats. Although these animals assume almost 20% Among all the mammal species known today, their fossil record is very incomplete and it is often difficult to find remains in good condition. That is why this new find is so important. It is a bone from the jaw of Desmodus draculae and appeared in Pleistocene sediments in a cave near Miramar.
The bone allows the size of the animal to be determined at about 50 cm from one tip to the other. It is the largest known vampire bat, more precisely 30% larger than its closest living relative.
The cave in which it was found is also the place where the remains of a giant sloth appeared, so it is possible that the bat fed on the blood of this other animal. Alternatively, the predator hunts him down and takes him to that cave. Until we find more remains, it’s hard to put together a whole story. We know that this is one of the oldest known fossil records of the species and that it allows not only to expand the area of influence they had in life, but also to discover new details of Argentina’s Pleistocene climate (all remains found so far appeared in latitudes up to 400 km north of Miramar).
Some remains of this species are only partially fossilized, suggesting that they may have become extinct only a few hundred years ago. Despite their infamous reputation, vampire bats are peaceful creatures that drink little mammalian blood during sleep without disturbing them. Their biggest threat is that they are carriers of some important diseases such as rabies. The results of the discovery of this new bone have just been published in a journal Ameghiniana. [vía Science Alert]