Dracula’s Own Blood-Sucker: The 20 Million Year Old Vampire Bug

Photo by George Poinar, Jr., courtesy of Oregon State University

While most of us have probably never even heard of a “bat fly”, a recent discovery of a unique fossilised one has revealed that they’ve been feeding off their winged vampire buddies for a really long time.

It seems that this bat fly, found in the Dominican Republic inside amber (developed from oozing tree sap), has given Oregon State University reason to believe that this creature has parasitized (yes, that’s a word) with its bat host species for 20 million years. Since the bat, the only true flying mammal and the earliest species to develop claws and make it to the heights of the trees, has existed for about 50 million years, it seems they’ve had to bear these blood-sucking parasites for about half the time they’ve existed.

The bat – literally called a “vampire bat” – is a creature that’s own diet is made up of blood, feeding on anything from sheep to dogs to humans. You will therefore forgive me if I don’t feel particularly sympathetic to this creature’s parasitic plight. Though perhaps there is some poetic justice in nature’s sense of humour here: the vampiric bat has had to endure it’s own vampire for half of its existence!

While this particular genus of bat fly is now extinct, bats these days can still carry parasitic bat flies, though they are specific to particular species (unlike fleas) but are still common and found all over the world.

What was also of interest in the find was that this bug carried malaria: further proof that the disease has been around for a significant amount of time in the New World.

[Via Science Daily]