WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists have figured out why vampire bats are the only mammals that can survive on a diet of just blood.
They compared vampire bats to 26 other bat species and identified 13 genes that are missing or no longer work in vampire bats.
“Typically, when we hear about mutations destroying genes, we think that’s a bad idea,” researcher Michael Hiller said, according to the Scientific American. “But in this study, we found that losing certain genes can be beneficial for adapting to this very special diet.”
Over the years, those gene tweaks helped them adapt to a blood diet rich in iron and protein but with minimal fats or carbohydrates.
"These findings enhance our understanding of vampire bat biology and the genomic underpinnings of adaptations to blood feeding," the researchers said in the journal Scientific Advances.
The bats live in South and Central America and steal blood from livestock and other animals.