Vampire bats would possibly keep away from bitter substances to dodge indigestion

Vampire bats might avoid bitter substances to dodge indigestion

Vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) can detect some bitter substances

Michael & Patricia Fogden/Minden

Vampire bats can’t style candy meals, however they’ll style some bitter substances – and doing so could even be helpful.

Throughout their evolution, vampire bats misplaced their receptors for detecting candy tastes. That’s in all probability as a result of they didn’t want them, says Maik Behrens on the Leibniz-Institute for Meals Programs Biology on the Technical College of Munich, Germany. In contrast to fruit bats, for instance, they don’t eat sweet-tasting meals.


The bats additionally misplaced most of their receptors for bitter tastes, however not all of them. Behrens and his colleague Florian Ziegler, additionally on the Leibniz-Institute for Meals Programs Biology, wished to know why vampire bats nonetheless retain some potential to detect bitter-tasting meals. To research, they carried out experiments to see precisely which sorts of bitter-tasting chemical compounds vampire bats might detect.

The frequent vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) has three bitter style receptors; Behrens and Ziegler inserted DNA sequences for producing each into human kidney cell cultures – which are sometimes used for finding out style – and grew them within the lab.

Then they added small quantities of bitter chemical compounds to the cultures and measured the cells’ responses to work out which chemical compounds activated the receptors, in addition to to ascertain their sensitivity to every substance.

A number of the compounds that the bat receptors picked up, like artemisinin and quinine, are present in crops, says Behrens. Since vampire bats don’t eat crops, it’s doable that these receptors are simply inherited from a bat ancestor that did eat the occasional plant, maybe as a part of a eating regimen comprised largely of bugs.

Nevertheless, Behrens and Ziegler additionally discovered that one of many style receptors detected metallic ions, comparable to these in magnesium sulphate, recognized generally as Epsom salt. This chemical can happen in mineral water, just like the volcanic springs in Cauca valley, Colombia, the place frequent vampire bats dwell.

Behrens speculates that this potential to detect what he and Ziegler name “bitter salts” is perhaps adaptive in vampire bats. Magnesium sulphate, specifically, might theoretically encourage the blood that the vampire bats eat to clot extra whereas it’s being digested, which could make the bats really feel unwell. Behrens due to this fact wonders whether or not the vampire bats detect magnesium sulphate in water and keep away from ingesting an excessive amount of of it.

“It’s like people with salt; we want just a little bit, however not an excessive amount of,” he says. “I feel vampire bats, like most animals, don’t like bitter tastes, and that their receptors inform them when the concentrations of bitter salts are too excessive as a result of it won’t be good for them.”

Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2021.0418

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