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Blood Suckers: 10 Animals That Feed on Blood for a Living

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When the 1922 classic Vampire movie ‘Nosferatu’ directed by F.W. Murnau first emerged (even though it was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula), it triggered waves of reactions from the ever-growing lovers of horror movies worldwide (even though it’s actually really boring to watch). This sparked the beginning of a whole new era of big-screen blood-sucking frenzy. The concept of Vampirism, though fictional, has dominated the media ever since, being the central theme in my favorite movies such as ‘The Vampire Diaries’, ‘The Originals’, ‘Abraham Lincoln: The Vampire Hunter’, etc.

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The mere notion that Vampires actually exist in the real world immediately gets rebuffed by anyone in their right senses; like why would humans have fangs and feed on blood? However, nature has somehow engineered blood-sucking machines and they have existed for thousands of years. Even if the idea of bloodsucking humans is just for the big screen, blood-sucking creatures exist in the animal kingdom and these animals feed on blood for a variety of reasons. Below is my list of the 10 vampires of the animal kingdom.

1. Leeches


Starring in the 2003 horror movie ‘Leeches’, leeches have been known to inhabit freshwater environments, while some species can be found in terrestrial and marine environments. You can never see a movie filmed in the Jungle without these guys showing up in the plot. Leeches are segmented worms that belong to the phylum Annelida and comprise the subclass Hirudinea. The most fascinating characteristic of these creatures is their thirst for blood. Although, only some species of leeches feed on blood, and not all species can bite; 90% of them feed solely on decomposing bodies and open wounds of amphibians, reptiles, waterfowl, fish, and mammals.

To feed on their hosts, leeches use their anterior suckers to connect to their hosts. Once attached, leeches use a combination of mucus and suction to stay attached and secrete an anticoagulant enzyme, hirudin, into their hosts’ bloodstream. The most popular species, Hirudo medicinalis, are used medically to treat medical conditions that cause an obstruction in blood flow. Funny enough, a lot of people pay huge money for Leech-therapy where leeches are placed on the body and allowed to feed, indirectly increasing blood circulation in the body. Cool, right?

2. Female Mosquitoes

Female mosquito
One of the hardcore enemies of colonialism in Africa, Mosquitoes have somehow become the most annoying creatures on earth not just because they feed on blood but because they cause one of the most deadly diseases known to mankind (Malaria). And these creatures do all they can to ensure you do not have a good night’s sleep with their incessant ‘singing‘ in your ears. In 2015, there were roughly 214 million malaria cases and an estimated 438,000 malaria deaths.

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Thankfully, not all Mosquitoes require blood. Only female mosquitoes need blood. They use the protein and iron found in blood to make their eggs. Naturally, female mosquitoes feed on nectar and water, just like the males. So don’t be harsh on them when next they try feeding on you. The one question I’ve always asked myself, “Are there are any ecological benefits Mosquitoes provide?” If you know the answer, please share it in the comments below.

3. Vampire bats

Ahh! We cannot talk about blood-thirsty creatures without including Vampire Bats. These guys are like the kingpins of the blood-sucking empire and they have starred multiple times in many of the greatest Vampire movies in history. They even have a DC superhero named after them, but what do you really know about Vampire bats? Well, for starters, Vampire bats don’t fly around feeding and killing humans at night, they don’t go up in flames in sunlight; and NO, they don’t have the ability to transform into humans (That would have been cool).

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Vampire bats are bats whose food source is blood, a dietary trait called hematophagy. There are just three bat species that feed solely on blood: the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), the hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi). All three species are native to the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina. Vampire bats hunt only when it is fully dark. Vampire bats feed mostly on the blood of mammals (ehh… On rare occasions, humans), whereas both the hairy-legged vampire bat and white-winged vampire bat feed on the blood of birds. The bat’s saliva, left in the victim’s resulting bite wound, contains several compounds that prolong bleeding, repair of damaged vessels, and prevent clotting.


4. The Tick

The Tick

The Enemies of pets, Ticks are tiny ectoparasites that belong to the same family as Mites and they feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Do not let their size fool you, these creatures have been found to be vectors of a number of diseases that affect both humans and other animals.

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They cause discomfort to our Dogs and Cats, attaching themselves to the skin and hair follicle. They suck the blood of their hosts causing itchiness and a range of Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Q fever, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, African tick bite fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, tularemia, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and tick-borne meningoencephalitis. That is quite a lot from these tiny guys.


5. Bed bugs

bed bugs

The name ‘bed bug‘ actually says it all. It was derived from the fact that these tiny creatures prefer living in warm houses and especially near or inside beds and bedding or other sleep areas. Bedbugs are small, brownish insects that feed on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies, but their bodies swell, having a reddish hue after feeding. Fortunately for us, bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over your beds, floors, walls, and ceilings. Bed bugs are nocturnal and are mainly active at night but you can still find them feeding during the day. Under favorable conditions, the bugs can mature into a full-blown adult in just a month and produce three or more generations per year. Though they are a big nuisance, unlike their tick friends, they do not transmit diseases.

6. Assassin bugs

Assassin bugs

When I first heard that name ‘Assassin Bug‘, the first thing that came to mind was the popular Video game, Assassin’s creed. Assassin bugs (or kissing bugs) get their names from their habit of biting humans on the face near the lips. Kissing bugs are found all across the bottom two-thirds of the United States, and predominantly in Arizona, California, Texas, and New Mexico.

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They are largely dark-brown or black and may have red dots on each side of their broad, flatbacks. Like their other annoying blood-sucking friends, these bugs do not only bite, but their bites spread the parasite that causes Chagas disease. So stay away from these Assassins as much as you can.

7. Candiru


I think this is the most disgusting fish on the planet. Quite a big title for a fish that measures only about the size of a matchstick or toothpick, hence they are popularly called toothpick fish. This tiny fish inhabits the Amazon (known to be home to a lot of weird creatures) and Orinoco basins of lowland Amazonia, where they constitute part of the Neotropical fish fauna.

Candirus feed on blood to survive and live in the gills of larger Amazonian fishes, especially catfish. There have been reports of how this fish propels itself into the urethra of men who go to the river to wash themselves. Acting as bullets, they make their way to blood vessels to feed on blood. If that does not disgust you, nothing else will. So far, there’s only one documented case of a candiru forcefully entering a human urethra in Itacoatiara, Brazil in 1997.

A 23-year-old man claimed a candiru “leaped” out of the water into his urethra as he urinated while thigh-deep in a river. After traveling to Manaus on October 28, 1997, the victim underwent a two-hour urological surgery to remove the fish from his body.


8. Madrilenial Butterfly

Butterflies are really beautiful creatures, but when they start to feed on blood, that kills every single atom of beauty they have. The Madrilenial Butterfly actually does feed on fruits and nectar like every other normal butterfly. They simply got tired of this and started to feed on blood. The good news is that the Madrilenial Butterfly is found mostly in Spain and it only sucks the blood of dead carcasses. Of course, this one type of butterfly isn’t going to chase you around, take you down, and feast on your blood, but it’s still food for thought.

9. Vampire Finches

Vampire Finches

Just when you thought this list couldn’t get any weirder than it already is. A bird that sucks blood too? The vampire finch, also known as Geospiza difficilis septentrionalis, is a small bird native to the Galápagos Islands. This bird is most famous for its unusual diet. The vampire finch occasionally feeds by drinking the blood of other birds. It does this by pecking at their skin with their sharp beaks until blood is drawn.

Well, the vampire finch is endangered, being a small island endemic. So you can’t go around hunting them down. Good thing is that there are no known attacks on humans, so no cause for alarm.

10. The Flea

Finally, the last blood-sucking creature on our list is the Flea. They are small flightless insects that are external parasites of warm-blooded animals, living by hematophagy. The adults are up to about 3 mm (0.12 in) long and usually brown. They are wingless insects so fortunately, they cannot fly. Instead, these insects have the ability to leap a distance of some 50 times their body length, a feat second only to jumps made by froghoppers. Like their blood-sucking colleagues, Fleas attach themselves to the fur or feathers of animals and feed on their blood. They have really strong claws for gripping the hair follicles so they don’t fall off.

Think about it…

LOL at the meme above. But whether you believe Vampires exist or not, my advice is that you avoid an encounter with any of these creatures especially those that spread diseases and parasites. They are the 10 bloodsuckers of the animal kingdom and will definitely give the great Count Dracula a run for his money.
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