I just read a book on sanguivores: animals that drink blood for survival.  It was so good.  I should warn you, this post gets a little disturbing at times.  Okay, maybe all the time.  Enjoy.

Let’s start with the bats.  There are three species of bats that live on blood.  The common vampire bat can crawl quickly and spider-like on the ground, and it takes flight from the ground by doing a move that looks like a push-up.  Another species of bat has learned to mimic baby chickens.  It tricks the hen into snuggling with it, at which point it administers its painless bite to the bird.

And then there’s leeches.  Besides being used for medicinal reasons for thousands of years, some women would insert them into their vaginas on their wedding night to hide the fact that they weren’t virgins.  The husband would penetrate his bride, and there would be blood; only it was from the leech, not a breaking hymen.

Really, really random fact: In 1833, French troops were bled for pretty much any ailment.  Because of this, women started decorating their dresses with imitation leeches. It was the height of fashion of a while.  Yes, really.

About a decade ago, a hospital decided to flush its used leeches down the toilet.  And then the leeches started coming back up the pipes and biting unsuspecting hospital visitors in the butt (or worse).

Leeches are frequently used in breast reconstruction.  But in 1993, a leech somehow disappeared during surgery.  Yes, they found it later inside the breast.  Ew.

I’m going to skip the sections on bed bugs, ticks, and mites; but I must add that Roman physicians suggested women snort bed bugs if they’d fallen into a swoon due to “strangulation from the vulva.”  And yes, everything about that sentence is horrifying.

The candiru is an Amazonian catfish that’s reported to swim up urine streams into a human’s urethra.  While it’s a long-lived rumor, it’s only happened once that was documented.  And it didn’t swim up the stream.  The man urinated in the river with his bathing trunks pulled down, and the candiru accidentally swam in.  So if you’re ever swimming in the Amazon, you have much worse things to worry about than tiny catfish.  Like, you know, piranhas and electric eels and giant snakes.

A final fact: Vampire finches, cute little birds that live in the Galapagos islands, aren’t truly vampiric.  They mostly live on seeds and nectar.  But they do like a snack of blood from the blue-footed booby now and then.  The rest of the animals I’ve mentioned will eat human blood in addition to that of other mammals, but you can rest easy knowing that you won’t die from adorable little birds.

This creepy post was brought to you by Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures by Bill Schutt.  When I came across the title, I knew I’d found something special.  Because sanguivores are cool, and not just because I’m a goth.  Although, you know, writing about vampiric species is a great way to kick off Halloween month!


Categories: Science


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.