Sure, Dracula is the best known blood sucker out there. But while Dracula is fictional, this Halloween CUFBI thinks it would be fun to take a look at some animals that drink blood and are very real (okay, maybe #6 hasn’t been proven yet, but he’s still horrifying).
Here are six of the world’s finest hematophages.
The Candiru, also known as the toothpick fish, or vampire fish, is a small fish, with a big appetite. It has a rather small head and a belly that can appear distended, especially after a large blood meal. Native to the Amazon Basin, they are translucent, making them quite difficult to spot in the turbid water of its home. They have short sensory barbs around the head, together with short, backward pointing spines on the gill covers. Known for their alleged tendency to invade and parasitize the human urethra (only one case has occurred and that was in 1997), but just the thought of it is enough to make men cringe and howl in imagined horror.
The Hood Mockingbird is a curious, blood-drinking feathered beast – the largest of all the mockingbirds in the Galapagos Islands. This flying vampire has a very long bill that curves downwards, and yellowish-brown eyes surrounded by a dark patch. To add to its threat to humans, it’s fearless of us in general, and it’s not uncommon for one to land on the head of a visitor to its islands. It eagerly explores unknown objects for food or drink and along with a vegan diet it likes to devour carrion from the carcasses of seabirds, lizards and sea lions. It commonly drinks blood, especially in the dry season, from wounds on living sea lions, from sea lion placentas, and from the wounds on humans, especially the legs.
Cooper’s Nutmeg Snail
Although humans are not this snail’s favorite food, it does suck blood from the Pacific Electric Ray as it its life depended on it. The ray, unfortunately, secrets what the snail believes is a “come hither” mucus to which the snail is desperately attracted. This blood sucker lives offshore from California to Mexico and feeds by inserting its tubular snout into the electric ray and extracting bodily fluids for as long as 40 minutes at a time without any apparent damage to the ray. The snail is so determined to feed that it withstands the ray’s one-kilowatt electric discharge (equal to the shock from a car battery) while he is at the ray buffet.
Known as a species of vampire moths, this blood sucker is found in Siberia. Bug specialists (entomologists) say the flying Russian sucker may have evolved from a purely fruit-eating species. When this moth was offered human hands in an experiment, the insects drilled their hook-and-barb-lined tongues under the skin and starting sucking like Dracula on a Ruth Chris’ fillet. This moth species is being studied because it’s rare for a fruit-eating moth to evolve into blood-feeding behavior and it could provide clues as to how some moths develop a taste for blood, along with fruit. Just imagine what would happen if rats, or roaches, or fish evolved into enjoying blood. Yikes.
It’s just not safe to go into the water sometimes. Say hello to the lamprey, an ancient eel-like monster that’s in many river systems, latching onto fish like trout and draining their blood or scraping away their flesh right down to the bone. Using impressive hooked teeth and a structure like a tongue, they permit the lamprey to feed on flesh to remove, chunk by chunk, pieces of flesh. In the Great Lakes of North America their invasive menace, devouring fisheries that rely on their fish not having their flesh chewed up and their blood sucked dry. It is admirable that this slimy, slithering water worm has lasted 360 million years without changing, so it’s considered a brilliant parasite that’s evolved to be remarkably efficient, and gross. Very gross.
It’s Halloween so this one may be a bit of a stretch. Or, maybe not. Something very similar to a Chupacabra may have just washed up on shore over in Paraguay. The legend of the Chupacabra started in Puerto Rico when goats and chickens started turning up dead in the 1990’s, drained of their blood and with telltale puncture wounds in their necks but otherwise completely intact. So we all know it was either vampires, or zombies, or the Chupacabra did it. Right? The name means goat sucker in Spanish, and word spread of this blood sucking monster on two, or four, legs and it has been described as a gray, lizard-like creature about 3 to 4 feet tall that walks upright on its hind legs, resembling the alien in Ridley Scott’s, Alien. Don’t forget the large eyes, fangs, forked tongue, row of sharp quills down its back – and thirst for blood.