The Cryptid Zoo: Giant Vampire Bat

In the 1940 film 'The Devil Bat' Bela Lugosi stars as a mad scientist who sents this giant bat to attack people. This screenshot is copyrighted by those who own the copyright to the film.
Science currently recognizes only three living species of vampire bat: the common vampire bat, the white-winged vampire bat and the hairy-legged vampire bat. All three species are found in South America and/or Central America. There are no recognized species of vampire bat in the Old World, despite that the uninformed will sometimes be convinced that European vampire legends are based on European vampire bats.

Today's vampire bats are quite tiny; they can easily be enclosed in a person's hand, with wingspans that do not exceed 8 inches. Blood is not a very nourishing diet, so it is difficult for a blood-drinking lifestyle to sustain a large creature. But these small vampire bats once had a larger cousin, who is thought to be extinct. Named the giant vampire bat or Desmodus draculae, this creature inhabited Venezuela and Brazil in South America during the Pleistocene. Its wingspan has been reconstructed as being about 17 inches when it was alive. It would have needed to drink a lot of blood to stay alive.

But perhaps it, or a related species, is still alive today. Reports from cattlemen in southeastern Brazil describe a large blood-drinking bat that sounds like the presumably extinct giant vampire bat. Reported sizes cover a range, up to a wingspan of 3 feet, 3 inches. Cryptozoologists have so far failed to find any living examples of the giant vampire bat, but there is still much hope.

Bats are some of the hardest animals in the world to locate, and therefore even mainstream scientists believe that many new species await discovery. Furthermore, South America is still a hot spot for new animal discoveries, so the idea that another mammal awaits discovery is South America is not very controversial. Cryptozoological assertions tend to be more controversial when they involve places that are better explored and large, spectacular species that ought to be quite obvious among the local fauna, but when these assertions involve tropical rainforests and ordinary animals, the mainstream scientists tend to get on board much more easily.

You can find out more about the Giant Vampire Bat from the following sources:

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 39, 82, 103

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 98-99, 278

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