The true bloodsuckers of nature

The forests and rainforests of the whole world are full of life and of extraordinarily imposing beings of the animal and vegetable kingdom, as well as of predators that in their daily menu their "favorite dish" is blood.

The plant of dodder (genus Cuscuta)

Like all other plants, the tendrils of the dodder are able to absorb the Sun's energy, but in the case of this species it is not like that. Instead of moving away from the shadow like most plants, the dodder uses the same light signals to grow towards him and in the path of a possible victim. "At the same time, it seems to be able to detect the smell of plants," says Jim Westwood, professor of plant pathology at Virginia Tech. "That could help him choose [a target]." Once you have found a host, you gain almost all your food by touching the veins of the plant using specialized shoots.

Vampire fish (Vandellia cirrhosa)

The small, translucent candiru, native to the Amazon basin, is a traveler's worst nightmare. It can writhe even in the smallest orifice of a voracious catfish and snag itself, securing itself with spines backwards in its gills. Some species are only one centimeter long, although they can grow up to about 40 cm. The candiru reached a legendary status in the 1990s after he reportedly swam to the stream of a man's urine and lodged his body in the urethra. Fortunately, it is almost certainly an urban myth. Most of them cling to the gills of other catfish, although it is known that they occasionally twist in open wounds.

Vampire finch (Geospiza difficilis septentrionalis)

The refuge of this villain is worthy of his own Gothic novel. Secluded by 620 miles (1,000 km) of ocean on all sides, Wolf Island looms hauntingly over the Pacific. It is the most remote outpost of the Galápagos: a land full of razor-sharp lava formations, tangled mangroves and brutal heat.

The little ordinary-looking vampire finch is a close relative of its seed-eating neighbor, the sharp-fingered ground finch. But it seems to hide a spooky secret.

Although they still eat seeds and larvae, the birds have adapted to the life of the island by using their beaks for something more violent. To feed, they simply climb aboard a larger bird, like a blue-footed booby, and peck the tail feathers until they sit in a pool of blood. Then the vampires get stuck in their beaks and go to the city. They especially like the defenseless pigeons that hide in their nests.

Perhaps the most sinister aspect of this whole experience is that the victims barely flinch when the finches tear their skin. One theory is that vampires used to remove ticks from birds; It is possible that they have discreetly taken their services to the next level.

The finch's blood drinking habits have allowed them to thrive even in the driest months, becoming the most numerous birds on the island. The finches can be seen lining up behind a victim, patiently waiting their turn for dinner.

Killer bugs (family Reduviidae)

In forests and rainforests around the world, a cold-blooded killer lurks the night. The aptly named killer bug has it all: stealth, strategy and a lethal weapon.

The approximately 7,000 species vary widely in their diets, some of them as bees, while others, confusingly, suck the blood of blood-sucking vampire bats, but all are equipped with their own sinister multiple tool, their sting.

While other predators take the trouble to kill their prey, the killer insect uses its sting to inject living victims with a cocktail of enzymes and digest them from the inside out. As the target animal becomes soup, the beak-like sting of the killer insect becomes a straw to suck the soup, whether the victim is alive or dead.

A kind of killer insect sticks the withered corpses of its victims to its shell as extra armor.

Most killer insects feed on insects, which they ambush using a series of unpleasant tricks. The species Stenolemus bituberus hunts spiders in its own webs, luring them to their doom, gently tearing off the delicate silk to mimic the vibrations of entangled prey. Then he jumps out of hiding.

Another species, Acanthaspis petax, feeds on ants. It puts the withered corpses of the victims to a particularly macabre use, sticking them to their shell like extra armor. Some have been seen with up to 20 individuals piled up.

Unfortunately, humans have not escaped the attention of killer bugs. The "kiss virus" has been drinking our blood for thousands of years. Named for their horrendous habit of clinging to people's faces while they sleep, they even managed to annoy the most famous biologist in the world. Charles Darwin found them on his iconic voyage aboard the Beagle. Later he wrote about the experience: "It is very disgusting to feel soft insects without wings, about an inch long, that crawl on one's body."

Insects are the main source of Chagas disease, caused by protozoa that live in their intestines and contaminate the wound while feeding. He is a silent killer, silently destroying a person's heart for the rest of his life. Some believe he may have been responsible for Darwin's death.

Flying vampire frog (Rhacophorus vampyrus)

The misty forests of southern Vietnam are some of the wettest places on Earth, permanently submerged in clouds that soak all surfaces. It is ideal for detecting amphibians, but it is not an obvious vampire territory.

Or at least the biologist Jodi Rowley thought about it when she visited the place in 2010. In a short time her team had found a kind of flying frog completely new to science.

Back at the Australian Museum in Sydney, where Rowley works, he had difficulty seeing the tiny eyes of the tadpoles. She put one under the microscope to see better. "To my great astonishment I saw these curved black fangs stick out! Why would a tadpole need fangs?

A vampire tadpole Rhacophorus

Frogs live all their lives in the treetops, where they use their webbed fingers and their fingers to slide among the trees. Instead of risking predators by depositing their eggs in streams or ponds on the ground, the females place their eggs over holes filled with water in the trees, turning them into adhesive foam with their hind legs.

As the tadpoles hatch, they liquefy the foam and fall into the water below. But they have nothing to eat, so the mother returns to the hole and puts more eggs. "They do not suck blood or anything, they use their fangs to put eggs in their big mouths, and they suck them completely," explains Rowley.

Jumping spider of Kenya (Evarcha culicivora)

It's hard not to feel sorry for the jumping spider of Kenya. The arachnid, which lurks the walls of people's homes on the shores of Lake Victoria, loves nothing more than a refreshing drink of human blood. But fate has been cruel: spiders lack the specialized buccal parts needed to pierce people's skin.

It turns out that spiders have a spongy body and exuberant antennae.

So they get their dose indirectly, what they do is attack the blood-filled mosquitoes. They are the only animals that choose to get what they have eaten, and spiders are extremely fussy.

Given the choice, only female mosquitoes, Anopheles gambiae, the main malaria vector in Africa, eat. But choosing a single species among swarms of insects in the region is not an easy task.

Spiders distinguish Anopheles mosquitoes by the 45-degree angle of their bodies as they rest, and can distinguish a mosquito that is filled with human blood from one that is not just from the smell.

Spear-eating louse (Cymothoa exigua)

In January 2015, social networks exploded in unison when a mother from Nottingham opened a tuna can and found a pair of small eyes staring at her. The eyes turned out to be of none Cymothoa exigua. It's a louse with a life so unbelievably scary you could not imagine. The parasite begins its life as a male in search of a fish. Once he has found a suitable victim, he enters through the gills, crawls to his mouth and undergoes a transformation. It sinks its legs at the base of the fish's tongue and chokes on its blood, growing enormously and becoming a female at the same time. His eyes shrink and his legs expand. Finally, the wrinkled tongue of the fish falls off, and the louse replaces it with its own body. From that moment, the fish uses the parasite as a prosthetic tongue. The females mate with the males that live in the gills, giving birth to a breeding of live male parasites that swim to start the whole spooky process again.


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