Is there any proof that vampires exist?

15 November 2016

Question

Is there any actual proof that vampires exist?

Answer

Chris Smith put this to zoologist and Naked Scientist Georgia Mills...

Georgia - So the short answer here is no, there is no evidence for the sort of story book creatures which drink you blood, and hate garlic, and only come out at night, but there are a lot of animals who do drink blood. Blood is an excellent source of proteins and lipids, so it's a nice sort of meal on tap as it were for a lot of animals. So we've got mosquitos, leeches, there are even some birds that drink the blood from other birds, which I had no idea about.

Chris - How do they get the blood - do they go and peck at them?

Georgia - Yeah. It's a very small, I think it might be finch, I might be wrong, that lands on a bird called the booby. It just kind of pecks on its back and, apparently, if the booby let's it get away with it, but it it's too greedy the booby will chase it away.

Chris - I think I would chase it away under any circumstances. Does it do this all the time or is it like the mosquito where the female is the one that seeks out the blood meal because it's rich in protein when she needs to lay eggs?

Georgia - I think it happens more when food is scarce. I don't think it's sole diet is blood. And in terms of vampiric animals, there's the vampire bat as well. Thinking about when they bite you you turn into a vampire, this doesn't happen for any animals but when you bite blood you transfer a lot of blood borne diseases. So things like malaria...

Chris - Rabies?

Georgia - ... rabies, exactly. And that's arguably a lot worse than turning into an immortal vampire.

But there's actually some really interesting research and it might imply that maybe vampirism is a good idea in the future. What scientists have done is they got old mice and young mice and have sort of done a mutual blood transfer, and they found out the old mice got smarter, they looked younger, they tended to do better on all the tests, and the young mice started to mess up a bit and seem a bit older. They think they might be growth factors in the blood of younger animals that, if transferred to older animals, they can then reap the benefits, and they're actually looking into this for treating Alzheimer's.

Chris - Not so good for the young animal though which accelerates its aging, is it?

Georgia - Yes, but you'd hope if they did it with humans, they wouldn't then transfer the old blood into the younger creatures and just do a simple donation.

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