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article imageNot such a bitter taste for Vampire bats

By Tim Sandle     Jun 29, 2014 in Science
Wuhan - Vampire bats exist on a diet mainly made up of blood. Due to this, the flying mammals have largely lost the ability to taste bitter flavors, according to a new study.
Scientists have postulated that, by dining exclusively on blood, vampire bats are unlikely to encounter the types of plants and animals that taste of "bitter flavors" to many other animals (including humans). Most other bats can detect bitter flavors.
This has come about after Huabin Zhao from China’s Wuhan University discovered the bats’ weakened bitter taste when they found a much greater number of the vampire bat bitter taste receptor genes were in fact inactive "pseudogenes", unlike similar genes in other bat species.
Discussing the findings further, Zhao told BBC News: "Unlike other mammals, vampire bats lost bitter taste very recently, suggesting they may switch their diet from insects to blood in a recent time range. From our study we understand that vampire bats do not need bitter taste, but some bitter taste receptor genes are still needed in vampire bats for other functions."
The new study links with other reports that suggest that tasting abilities are linked to an animal’s diet. For example, a mutated sweet taste receptor seems to have left cats, both wild and domestic, without a sweet tooth. This is likely to be as a result of their carnivorous diet.
The report into the bats has been made to the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in a study titled "Vampire bats exhibit evolutionary reduction of bitter taste receptor genes common to other bats."
More about Bats, vampire bats, Taste, fangs, Blood
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