image description October 9, 2013

Bizarre Bites: Giant Fruit Bats

Bizarre Bites: Giant Fruit Bats

Flying Foxes!

With a six-foot wing span, the Samoan giant fruit bat, a.k.a. the flying fox, is the most appropriately named animal since the toy poodle. The bats are native to the tropics of Asia, Australia, Indonesia, islands of East Africa, and the Indian and Pacific oceans, but I tried them first on the uninhabited island of Nu’utele in Samoa. We hunted them at dusk, watching them wheel and spill out of a mountaintop cave, making a beeline for a nighttime feeding frenzy on the breadfruit orchard where I was staked out with half a dozen members of a local hunting club. He harvested about a dozen bats pretty quickly, roasting them whole over a coconut-husk fire, drizzling them with fresh ginger juice (ginger grows everywhere on the island), and devouring them with true gusto. They were amazing.

Famous Blood Suckers

Illustration by Chuck Gonzales

Illustration by Chuck Gonzales

Bats get a bad rap for being dirty, scary bloodsuckers, and some of them indeed are. Don’t worry, though, it’s likely the only bat you’ll ever encounter is a regular old brown bat that’s decided to roost in your attic. Though annoying, these guys eat pesky insects, specifically mosquitoes. Of course, they can poop infected droppings all over your house, and sometimes they have rabies, so it’s best to not have them as roommates.

There are only three species of vampire bats, none of which live in Transylvania. They hail from the Americas, from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. I’m more afraid of these bloodsuckers:

LEECHES: Leeches suck…literally. They look like little black blobs that stick to your skin when you go for a swim. They latch on with their mouthparts and start chugging. It was common practice before modern medicine to use leeches to “clean out” bad blood. In reality, patients were being bled to death. Doctors still sometimes use leeches today, but for good, scientific reason. The leeches can reduce swelling by drinking congested blood out of wounds.

COUNT CHOCULA: OK, this is kind of a stretch, but a creepy cartoon character vanting to eat your cereal in almost as annoying as something drinking your blood. Around Halloween, General Mills releases monster-themed cereal, including Count Chocula, Boo Berry, and Frankenberry. When Frankenberry was first released, it was dyed pink with a harmless food coloring that didn’t break down in the body. Ironically, the friendly-looking monster scared a few people when they went to the bathroom and discoered “Frankenberry Stool,” aka bright-pink poop!

BELA LUGOSI: The actor who played Dracula in the film based on the book written by Bram Stoker in 1897. Dracula is easily the most famous vampire, after Edward and the Cullens. If you get a chance to watch the movie, watch Mr. Lugosi’s eyes. He doesn’t blink once. 

Illustration by Chuck Gonzales

Illustration by Chuck Gonzales

Fruit Snacks

Giant fruit bats have “fruit” in their name for a reason. They love to eat fruit. They fly toward the fruit and crash into it, grabbing the food with one of their hind feet with their clawed thumbs on their wings.

Fruit is a great snack for bats and humans alike. Fruits are full of things that everyone needs in a healthy diet including fiber, potassium, vitamin C and folate. But don’t take it from me, take it from a bat, and eat more fruit!



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