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Episode 6: The Common Vampire Bat

Hannah, Elizabeth and Ilana, explore the discovery, appearance, ecology and queerness of the common vampire bat from Central and South America.

Content Warning: talk of explicit sex acts 34:12 - 34:59

Ilana (I): Hi everyone, and welcome to today's episode of Queerly Natural, where we talk about queerness in the natural world. We discuss different traits and qualities of animals, plants, fungi, and more and how they relate to queer identities in humans. Some may argue our identities are not natural and we are here to say, they queerly are! We are your hosts. I'm Ilana,

Hannah (H): I'm Hannah,

Elizabeth (E): And I'm Elizabeth.

H: I want to start by thanking all of our listeners who have stuck around while we took some time to regroup, including everyone who has continued to support us on social media and patreon. Here's the first in a new batch of episodes this one is about Desmodus rotundus otherwise known as the common vampire bat. We talk about this charming little airborne mammal, its society, and way of life, and exactly how it came to be named after a common myth as well as how it's queer. Enjoy!

[Hannah humming the classic Batman theme song] [Ilana squeak laughing]

H: Can you guess what we're doing this week?

E: What are we doing we're doing?

H: A bat!

E: I love bats!

I: Oh, I thought we were doing anteaters based off the song (sarcasm).

E: I don't know what song. I was like is this jaws? ShouldI be? Is this sharks? I don't know, what's happening

H: Batman? My favorite childhood super hero anteater-man! Bats, I was referencing bats.

I: Anteaters should have a song though, they deserve it.

H: We will be talking about vampire bats!

E: Yay batman plus dracula what a good combo!

H: Right? I originally couldn't decide which one to reference in the beginning, whether i should have done like, i don't know, what's a vampire sound? Bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh. Okay. Today we will be talking about the common vampire bat, specifically because there are several different species of vampire bats this one's name in latin is Desmodus rotundus. It's a small leaf-nosed bat and it is found throughout much of central and South America. Its habitat includes forests, open areas, and it roosts in caves and tree hollows. And the northern portion of its range extends into parts of mexico up to only 170 miles from the U.S. border and then the southern portion of its range can be found in parts of Argentina and Chile. It can also be found on the caribbean islands of Margarita and Trinidad. So they're very widespread.

I: I've been distracted this entire time by the descriptor leaf-nosed and I love it. Is it because like their nose is pointed up like this? (squishes nose tip upwards)

H: Yeah.

I: i'm pushing my nose all the way up and back so you can see my nostrils.

E: Wait, wait, I need this visual, hang on.

H: I wish we could provide the visual that Ilana's providing us.

I: It's fine you don't need to see it. I just like that descriptor. Its got a leaf nose.

H: Yeah, yeah. It's because their nose is like really flat, flat and like flared. It's pretty cool, pretty cool looking. So yeah, their geographic range or the like places where they are found is very large it spans a very large portion of central and South America.

E: That's great, who wants to miss out on the opportunity to have a bat bite them?

I: They're not gonna bite you.

H: Actually, something I did find out is that they do bite humans.

E: I heard field stories of a biologist who woke up with what they thought were matching mosquito bites and it was not.

I: I thought they mostly bit cattle.

H: We'll talk about their diet more later. They do eat mostly cattle but they have been reported to bite humans too. So onto the discovery of the vampire bat. The vampire bat was described or discovered quote unquote in 1810 by a man named Etienne Joffrey Saint-Hilaire, a French naturalist. He was a colleague of John Baptiste Lamarck and he expanded and defended Lamark's evolutionary theories and if you're not familiar with Lamarck's evolutionary theories. They were pretty out there.

I: Yeah Lamark's the guy who is like ‘if you stretch your neck really long your offspring will have really long necks,’ right?

H: Yeah your babies will have really long necks. If you like get really jacked your babies will be so beefy and jacked.

I: Imagine if you could just be bored and super muscular.

E: That's how that works.

H: Yeah that's what he said. Or in more like general terms he said “an organism can inherit from its parents physical characteristics that the parents have acquired by use or disuse of traits during their lifetimes.” So like if you work out a lot and you build muscle your babies will inherit lots of muscle. That's what he said.

I: This was determined not to be correct by the way.

H: So yeah, Joffrey Saint-Hilaire supported Lamarck and like thought he was right. He expanded on his ideas but in expanding upon them he accidentally stumbled upon a correct biological concept. I don't know it comes across a lot like a broken clock is correct twice, you know. So he established the principle of unity of composition, so he believed in an underlying unity of organismal design or the idea that nature uses one plan of construction for all organisms but is varied in its accessory parts. Which he took to very strange places as a concept but at its base is pretty much the concept of homology, which is still used in biology now because it holds up based on evidence. And what homology is, is the concept that there are traits in different organisms that appear different but that have similar anatomical characteristics that indicate that they came from a common ancestral characteristic. So an example of that would be human fingers and human finger bones being similar in like structure and organization to the finger bones of like bats like in their wings. Like that's a, that's an example of homology.

E: Right or like the remaining vestigial bones in like flippers of aquatic mammals, right, like whales and dolphins.

H: All of these structures that we've named like the fins of aquatic mammals, the arms of humans, the arm bones of bats like all of them are similar in structure. Because you have like the two arm bones, a bunch of little wrist bones and like palm bones and then like distinct fingers.

E: Yeah extending finger type bones yeah.

H: Yeah and they all appear similar in like base design. So like this guy kind of accidentally came up with this one correct idea.

E: That's kind of impressive.

H: Right, but let me tell you like kind of the crazy places he took it.

E: Uh oh.

H: He believed that the segmented legs of arthropods were homologous to the internal ribs of vertebrates.

E: Oh!

H: Yeah.

I: They don't have bones! They don't got no bones.

E: Yeah and leg segmentation is not at all comparable to our rib structure. What?

H: Our ribs aren't segmented. Yeah right.

I: Imagine having ribs that could segment and move. That just that's a horror movie right there.

E: No, no, no! Ilana why would you do that. That's now my nightmare, why would you do that, no.

I: I'm sorry.

E: I forgive you.

H: Yeah so, he basically like, the way my source put it is that he believed that insects could walk on their ribs.

I: Ow.

E: What!

H: Like they don't even have ribs, like Ilana said because they don't have bones. They have an exoskeleton.

E: See no that's my new nightmare.

I: That one's not my fault.

E: Yours didn't last very long Ilana. Now I have to think about insects with like bones popping out of them that they don't even have and moving on them.

H: Yeah.

I: It's, it's the halloween store theory! You know how like in the halloween stores they always show like insect skeletons and you're like insects don't have skeletons like that. They have exoskeletons.

E: Yeah.

I: Like the spider with bones [arachnid not insect].

H: Yes!

E: Yeah that is pretty funny.

I: See, spider don't got no skeletons.

H: There ain't no bones in there. Anyway, so yeah, he thought that insects walked on their ribs which is not correct. He's also said to have stated and this is a quote, “there is philosophically speaking only a single animal.”

E: What! What animal! What's the one animal then.

H: I don't know. I don't think he knew either. (laughter) I think he was referring to the common design that unifies all animals, that this principle that he's credited for is like based on.

I: Then why aren't insects walking on their legs. (distressed sounding) Why is it their ribs and not their legs.

H: I don't know, I don't know. So yeah that's the guy who described the common vampire bat to western science.

E: What a character.

H: Alright, so we've gotten to the portion of the episode where you two will be describing what these vampires look like. In the literature it's so funny, they don't call them vampire bats they just call them vampires.

E: Really!

H: Yeah!

I: Oh, I got a picture. He's cute. He's got really big pointy ears.

E: Yes, very big pointy ears and and they have sharp little front teeth, right. Like you'd expect from a vampire, you got those little fang toofers (teeth). Like bleh, I have come to suck your blood.

I: He's hairy his eyes are pretty tiny and his nose and mouth protrude, and yeah you can see his nostrils.

E: His eyes are a little compared to his like ears but they're so life like, like he just looks like a cute little mischievous bunny.

H:They have a little sparkle.

I: And they're like wings, so it's weird because it's like the skin for their wings is like just skin like it's very thin.

E: Yeah it's very sparse fur.

I: And like you can really kind of see it like go around the arm bones, which I think are actually fingers if i remember correctly, the finger bones.

H: Yes.

E: Yeah and do they have little like, do their finger digits have like a little like a curved tip to like hook on. Right?

I: Yeah the hang right? When they open their mouths they look very happy.

E: Yeah they're pretty cute. Their ears have ridges on the inside which i think is really interesting looking to you guys. So they're kind of like upright dog ears in the general shape of like the curviness of the bottom towards the point of the top but the insides of their ears are ridged kind of like a seashell and I'm guessing that's to help them hear their echolocation better.

I: They've got white tummies, and grayish backs.

E: Yeah the fur on their backs is like a medium dark brown.

I: Like a a tawny gray kind of..

E: Ranging to brown, yeah. Can be grayish brownish.

I: Their nose kind of just looks like it's been smushed, like if you ever like go put your face against a window and just kind of drag it downwards, kind of how it goes.

E: Yeah if you guys know hognose snakes, it's a little like that, they're really cute. Oh they're littler than I thought they were. There's one being held by a researcher, it's so cute!

I: They're like little poofs with very long fingers, that are wings and their back legs are tiny.

E: Yeah let me be scientific about it. Okay, so their body length is about the length of a thumb if you're not including their wings or back legs extended and the length of their wings, at least for this one. It might be a juvenile because I really did think they were a little bigger than this but this one shown its wings are probably the span of a palm to your tip of your fingers. This is really high on the adorable scale, I know we haven't had any species that I haven't thought were cute and we probably never will.

I: I mean it's the adorable scale.

E: Cute versus adorable, yeah these guys are adorable.

H: Right? Little teeny tinies.

I: They have long tongues.

E: I think we covered it: size, color, really cute ears and pointy teeth.

H: General facial features.

I: They don't have like a super obvious like thinner neck versus head area, it's just kind of how it goes.

E: Yeah the head kind of slopes into the body shape they're kind of what Ilana said. They're like a puff ball with little extended wings.

I: I found the cutest baby photos!

E: Wait you found baby photos? Dang it, I'm on the wrong picture. Oh that one was making a really happy face!

H: Adorable. I love it. That's our unofficial physical description of the common vampire bat or Desmodus rotundus. Here's the more official description, “the common vampire bat has grayish brown fur the nose or muzzle is compact and looks kind of swollen” or like we said earlier it's leaf-like. I don't know it's kind of smushed up.

E: Yeah pretty smushed.

H: They have pointy ears, their wingspan averages 350 to 400 millimeters which is what is that in centimeters? 40 centimeters is that what that is?

E: Yeah that's 35 to 40 centimeters.

H: Their head and body length is usually 70 to 90 millimeters, they have no tail in the membrane between the hind legs which is called a uropatagium, that was an interesting word. I didn't know that, that was like a thing that we've named but anyway in this species that membrane between the hind legs is reduced, so it's smaller like there's less membrane connecting the hind legs than in other bats.

E: Cool.

H: Yeah and the females are usually larger than the males and the average adult weight is 25 to 40 grams which is only about two ounces. How many houses are in a pound 16?


H: Yeah, so they're pretty light. Alright so that's what they look like, so now on to their ecology or like how they live in the world. Vampire bats are nocturnal, meaning they are active in the night time and they spend their days roosting in tree hollows or caves. And if they're in caves those caves are usually inhabited by several different species of bats so you'll have thousands of bats. Some of them will be the common vampire bats, some of them may be a different species of vampire bat, some of them might be a fruit bat. You'll have this multi-species community of bats in a cave, if they're in a cave.

E: That's so cute. I love it.

H: Right? Yeah. And interestingly it was previously thought that vampire bats had one roosting spot and they returned to the same roosting spot every night but a recent study has shown that the bats will actually move between several roosts within two to three kilometer radius and the males change roosts more often than the females, likely according to climate and roost availability.

E: Couch surfing! They're couch surfing.

H: Vampire bats as the name implies and as we have implied at various points in this conversation are carnivorous and they practice something called hematophagy, which means that they consume blood and they are dependent entirely on blood for energy and nutrition so they don't eat anything else and they mostly parasitize large and medium-sized land animals. And to clarify they're called vampires, which may make you assume that they suck the blood that's not true. Instead what they do is they will grab the animal with their feet, like if it's a horse they'll grab by the mane and then they'll hang upside down by the neck of the animal and use their incisors to remove a small patch of flesh and then they lap the blood that flows out of the wound.

E: Okay, you know what, I would like that better from a bat than a horse fly which is what horse flies do. The thing is horse flight bites hurt so much though because they can't suck up the blood like mosquitoes they have to lap it up. So they bite you and then they twist their mouth part so that the blood will pool which is why it hurts like a mofo.

I:That makes so much sense based on my experience with horse flies. I think this would be painful also but yeah horse flies are annoying.

H: I think that they would be worse than the horse fly because usually vampire bats will visit a single host animal per night to feed on their blood but they have an anticoagulant compound in their saliva which prevents the wound from scabbing over or closing so the animal will keep bleeding and they'll return to the same host animal to drink more blood from the same wound site on consecutive nights. And not only that, not only will the same bat return to the same animal and take more blood but once the first bat has taken the flesh out and drunk its full meal of blood other bats will follow and continue lapping from the same spot. So it'll be one bat, a lot of different bats, and then the next night it's the same bats again.

E: Ouch. Dang. So that's a really bad day.

I: I wonder if their saliva has like antibiotics or anything like that. To keep an open wound for that long like ideally, I would think you'd want the animal you're eating from to survive multiple nights and not you know have serious infections that might affect you.

E: Yeah. How many nights is it, do you know hannah? Is it like two nights or is it like weeks? Because their twofers are pretty little, I mean it's it's gotta be a smallish patch of skin.

H: I don't think the blood loss is that fast as far as I know, but over time as the the blood slowly leaks out the animal can lose like a huge amount.

E: Yeah that sounds not fun.

I: Yeah because it's not healing and that's an open wound for multiple days. Like I'm just curious if there's anything besides the fact that it's just continuously bleeding to stop the animal from getting like an infected wound as opposed to like a good blood source.

H: Yeah, yeah right? You'd think that they would want to prioritize keeping the host healthy so that they could continue eating from it. You'd assume that there would be some mechanism preventing the blood from kind of like spoiling or becoming unhealthy for the bat. So yeah the animal might lose a huge amount of blood. Vampire bats can also transmit pathogens like rabies to their hosts, so they can also be a vector for various diseases.

E: Fine, I changed my mind. I'll take the horse fly bite.

I: Bats are kind of known for being able to transmit rabies. If you ever get a bat bite always go to the hospital.

H: Yeah. So like i said, vampire bats are found throughout much of central and South America. However their populations are concentrated around areas with extensive livestock farming and when close to human settlement vampire bats have been observed to ingest blood from cattle, horses, mules, goats, pigs, sheep, and also from humans.

E: OOOooooh. (scary ghostly sound).

H: Um. But I found this cool study where they were looking to answer the question of what the bats preferred hosts were, whether they preferred feeding from non-native livestock or whether they preferred feeding from native rainforest mammals.

E: That's such a good question!

H: Right, and to find the answer these researchers sampled the wing membranes of 35 bats and also collected the hair from 20 of them.

E: Okay.

H: And these bats were found in Costa Rica, and the samples were analyzed for the chemical composition of the carbon in them because the food chain of livestock is different from the food chain of rainforest mammals.

E: That makes sense.

H: So grasses, which are the plants that livestock would be feeding on, are C4 plants meaning that in photosynthesis they use a carbon compound that has four carbons in it and that is a unique photosynthetic process from other plants which are called C3 plants. So rainforest plants would be C3 and grasses would be C4. So the carbon taken up by livestock is chemically different from the carbon taken up by rainforest mammals and so therefore depending on which of these carbons the vampire bats are feeding on, the carbon in their tissues would also be different.

E: So they could see a preference.

H: Yep. This so they could tell which type of animal the vampire bats were feeding from more often.

E: Right.

H: So when they analyzed these samples from the bats, they found that the carbon was very similar to the carbon in livestock. So they very much prefer feeding from livestock over native animals which I found interesting.

I: I would assume the natives have like different defenses for the bats and so the non-native livestock are easier and are not defended in you know the ways of co-evolving, so it'd be easier food.

E: Yeah, makes sense.

H: Yeah their main point was that the behavior of livestock is more predictable and their presence is also more predictable than the presence of native mammals but that also makes sense Ilana that native mammals would have some sort of defense against this animal that they've co-evolved with for thousands of years versus livestock which are kind of new to the vampire bat and don't have that arsenal of defense against them.

E: Right and also maybe aren't the brightest at knowing areas to evade or like get away from bats because they don't know the area.

H: Right, they're in a different habitat from what they they themselves have evolved in. So yeah so that's what I found, they very much prefer feeding on livestock that humans have introduced. Vampire bat colonies may contain up to 2,000 individuals, although most have 20 to 100.

E: That's a very big difference.

H: Right, I know up to 2,000.

I: Just imagine going somewhere and there's just like 2,000 bats in the ceiling. It would be great.

E: I would cry. I would be so happy.

I: It's like every scooby-doo movie where they go into a cave just (flying sound effect).

E: Right! I'm like where, what caves are you guys going to? I want to go to a cave with this many bats like show me.

H: You'd be rich! Isn't bat sh*t like very valuable?

I: Guano? Yes.

E: Oh yeah bat guano. If you guys didn't know this, it's one of the main ingredients in the cosmetics industry and it's worth a good amount of money. So there you go.

I: Gotta have that bat guano on my face, all good.

H: Cave of gold. Alright so ecology to vampire bats can have up to 2,000 individuals. The female group is the primary social unit or family unit in vampire bat society and this group usually consists of 8 to 12 females, many of whom are related to each other but some of whom are not and they're young. Males sometimes form bachelor groups of up to eight individuals of only males, or they may roost in the same tree with female groups. Adults in a family unit often stay together for a long, time up to 12 years in some cases.

E: Wait how long did they live?

H: Up to 20 years in captivity.

E: Dang.

H: Usually nine years in the wild. So up to 12 years, I guess if they're lucky enough to live that long.

E: Oh babies stay together for life. I love it.

H: Right! So the adults stay together for a long time, up to 12 years, and they become very close the group is mostly females. Even in groups of males and females it's usually mostly females each of whom usually cares for a single pup.

E: Okay.

H: So if they're in a tree hollow and the entrance is at the base of the tree trunk of the hollow tree trunk, the females will congregate at the top of the hollow chamber up near the branches and then about three males will be in the hollow below them. One male will position himself near the top, closest to the females, and he will defend that place against aggressive encounters from the other one or two males. This dominant male, he will father about half of the group's young and the other one or two subordinate males that will be lower in the trunk will take up places near the entrance at the base and these other males, they'll take up their places near the base of the chamber near where the entrance is located. And they'll father the rest of the young like the other half. The lowest male positioned nearest the entrance will father the fewest amount of young.

E: Okay and being near the entrance is the most dangerous right? If a predator's coming so it's like very clear status indicator.

H: It's the least desirable spot.

E: Height in the tree is height in the family structure, okay, interesting.

H: Yep and then there will be other males in the vampire bat population who don't make it into a mixed male female family unit and if that doesn't happen they'll roost alone in those bachelor groups I mentioned. (25:12)

I:So they're not alone, they're together.

E:Yeah. You know what guys can be single quote unquote together, that's allowed.

H: They're together, they're alone together yeah. And females will rarely visit these male only groups, so they're legit, just like you know doing their thing.

E: Living their best lives.

H: Yeah living their best lives together.

E: Cute!

I: Right.

H: And a female pup will stay in the group that she was born in as she grows, her natal group unless her mother leaves or dies. Whereas male pups will leave early on, so females within a family unit can span several generations.

E: Oh neat. That's kind of cool you stay in the same space as your mom and your grandma. I'm curious you said they don't necessarily stay in the group if their mom leaves or dies. What happens when their mom dies?

H: They may migrate to a different group.

E: Okay I got you. I didn't know if there was like a multi-generational like step in of family rearing kind of a thing that happened.

H: Oh, I'm not i'm not sure but I'll get more into like the altruism between unrelated bats but it seems like it's kind of communal to an extent. So as she grows the female will stay and the males will leave but if the female never left a family unit would be comprised of only related females and that's not the case. So although adults in a family unit often stay together the group will change when new females join and this happens about every two years, just because a female may move on from a family group because like I said they may be bonded for 12 years but like that is not always the case. It's not always that long. So she may move on, her mother may have died, like there may be various circumstances where an unrelated female is introduced and so it's not all related females it's a mix of family members and unrelated females. And scientists talk about this by calling these matralines, so like matrilineal is like descendant through grandmothers and mothers yeah. So a family unit of bats will be comprised of several different matra lines.


H: Yeah okay and now finally on to the funnest part of the episode…

E: What makes them queer!

H: Yeah okay. So there are several aspects of the species that could be considered queer and the first one i'll talk about is social cooperation. So life as a vampire bat is actually very precarious. They are so close to dying at any moment in time.

E: Really!

H: Yes.

E: My babies!

H: Right because bats are so tiny and they're so warm blooded and they lose lots of heat because they don't have feathers and they don't have a full coat of fur like the membranes in their wings don't have fur, so their energy requirements are huge.

E: Dang.

H: They require so much energy to just stay warm enough to keep their bodies going.

E: Wow that's so sad.

H: Right so a vampire bat in a single meal will consume fifty to a hundred percent of its body weight in blood.

E: holy s***.

H: Yeah.

E: Its entire body weight.

H: Right. However up to one-third of bats may not obtain a meal on any particular night but since they require so much energy missing a meal is very dangerous for them.

E: Okay

H: Because they can starve so fast because they're metabolizing so much. The time it takes for a vampire bat to die of starvation is only 60 hours. So if they miss food for 60 hours by then the bat will have lost a quarter of its body weight and it can no longer maintain the necessary body temperature to stay alive.

I: They're like flying guinea pigs.

H: So this energy requirement is thought to actually be the limit on the bats range like it's found in all of these places but the places it's not found are places where it gets below 10C at any point in time because anything colder than that will freeze them because they cannot burn enough energy at any point to keep themselves warm enough in those cold temperatures. So to overcome this challenge because like Elizabeth said one third of them don't die every two days from missing meals.

E: Yeah, that would not work out.

H: No that would not work out for them very well. So to overcome this challenge and survive vampire bats have developed an elaborate food sharing system and food is shared between a mother and her pup as well as between adult bats. Food is transferred from one bat regurgitating into the mouth of another and of all the food transfers that occur 70% of them are from mother to pup supplementing the mother's lactation. The other 30% of food transfers include adult females feeding pups they are not related to, so that's the kind of communal aspect I was talking about Elizabeth.

I: I'm sure that's helpful for like first-time mothers.

E: Yeah or like if you're out to find a meal and you can't find one like not only do you not get food but your baby wouldn't so then your neighbor steps up. That's really cute.

H: Right unrelated females will kind of take on a sort of parenting role with pups that they aren't related to and also in that 30% are adult females feeding other adult females and then very rarely, the least the least common are adult males feeding offspring and they didn't even mention males feeding other males or males feeding females. So in order to solicit a donation of food a hungry bat will lick the donor on her wing and then lick her on the lips and then the donor may offer food.

E: Oh that's pretty cute like a little kiss.

H: Right, a little kiss on the wing and then a little kiss on the lips and then they're like yeah i'll feed you here you go. I love you.

E: That's so cute.

H: Right and some adult females are said to have a, this is in quotes, a special friendship.

E: Oh special friendship is it?

H: Yep with unrelated females. So grooming and food sharing is something that's really only done with relatives.

E: Okay so grooming is a similar, like a social thing.

H: Yep it's a social thing. They spend a good portion of their time grooming I think like 20% of their day but it only happens between related bats. So a mother and her young, related females in the same roost will also do this and then it's also done between these bonded unrelated females who are special friends.

E: Special friends.

H: That's that's not an aspect of the male-female relationship.

E: Gal pals. I love it.

H: Yep they're gal pals and they only say special friendship because these companions will share the same roost. Like I said they will groom one another which is something that is usually only done with related bats. They will huddle together and they'll go foraging with each other.

E: Oh they do a lot of things together.

H: Yeah.

E: They kiss and share blood.

H: Yeah. They they kiss each other on the lips and then share food and then sometimes they go out hunting together.

E: Yeah that's pretty cute, honestly like what else do you need in a partner.

H: Right.

I: So they live together, they cuddle together, and they find food together. Adorable. Dream team right there.

H: And associations like these between special friends can last for up to five to ten years or more and some females bond with several different female companions simultaneously. So they can be like poly-queer platonic.

E: Oh! I love it.

H: Right because even though they're close, overt sexual activity has not yet been observed between them. So between one half and three quarters of all companionships or close associations in bats are between females and then food sharing is imperative to vampire bat survival like I said. If they didn't help each other annual vampire bat mortality would be around 80% based on the chance of missing a meal two nights in a row but in actuality the annual mortality rate is only 25% because of this food sharing system they have, that gets bats through the times when they can't acquire food on their own.

E & I: Wow.

E: Ii mean that's still a high mortality rate but like I'm glad they're there for each other, so concretely.

I: Sharing's caring.

H: This species literally would not continue to exist like their mortality rate would be too high for them to even remain in existence because the females only have one pup per pregnancy. So the the species literally exists because they have this sharing system and they rely on each other.

E: I love that.

I: Adorable.

E: Oh, right, my heart.

H: Yeah so like I said, though the female-female special bond has not yet been observed to be explicitly sexual the males of the species form explicitly sexual same-sex relationships.

E: Yes! Alright.

[Content Warning: Description/discussion of sexual activity]

H: So male vampire bats participate in sexual grooming and licking of one another. The two males will hang upside down belly to belly both with erections one male will then work his tongue over the entire body of the other male paying particular attention to licking the other male's genitals.

I: How long are their tongues?

E: That's such a good question.

H: Maybe they're really good at like, maybe they do a lot of crunches while they're sitting upside down. So maybe they curl up to get like their ankles… I don't know. Sometimes one male will masturbate himself while licking his partner using his free foot to rub his own penis. And then among vampire bats in captivity some males seem to show preference for same-sex sex because they will bypass receptive females in order to interact sexually with other males instead.

E: I think that's about as definitive as you can get.

H: Yeah.

E: Those be really cute gay vampire bats.

H: Right. Although it's not known whether this preference for males is temporary or long-lasting

E: But that doesn't make it not real.

H: Sexuality's fluid.

E: Exactly. Meaningful relationships can be short.

H: Yeah right and yeah. That's what I've got.

E: Okay yeah that's pretty hard to argue with that's definitely pretty gay, pretty gay.

H: Queerly Natural was created by Ilana Zeitzer, Elizabeth Fuhrman and Hannah Rhoden with music by Migfus20, thank you Migfus for putting your music in the creative commons you are very talented. Visual design for the show is done by Ilana Zeitzer. To get updates about the podcast follow us at queerlynatural on facebook, twitter, and instagram we also upload all of our sources and episode transcripts to our website Above all else if you liked what you heard today tell your friends. Thank you so much for listening and keep an eye out for our next episode coming february 25th until next time stay queer and remember clearly it's natural.

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