Hematophagy is the practice of consuming blood as a source of food. Many animals, from mammals (such as vampire bats) to insects (such as mosquitoes) to fish (such as lampreys) are hematophages.
Hematophagy comes in many forms. Some animals are obligatory hematophages. This means they need blood in order to survive. The three species of so-called “vampire bats,” for example, are obligatory hematophages.
Other animals are optional hematophages. This means they can obtain nutrients from other sources besides blood. Many species of mosquito are optional hematophages. They digest blood, but can also consume substances such as nectar and pollen.
Some hematophages are true “bloodsuckers.” They use specialized hollow mouthpart to penetrate the blood vessel of their host, and suck out the pulsing blood. Mosquitoes use their long, thin proboscis to pierce the skin and suck the blood from their hosts. Some species of lamprey, a type of fish, use specialized teeth and a jawless, funnel-like mouth to suck the blood from fish such as trout.
Many hematophages do not suck blood, however. The razor-sharp teeth of vampire bats slice through the skin of their hosts, for instance. As blood wells up at the wound, the bat laps it up with its tongue. Vampire finches use their sharp beaks to peck at other birds until their skin is broken. The vampire finch then licks up the dripping blood.
Blood has been a part of human cuisine for centuries! Some examples include:
- blood pancakes, made with pork or reindeer blood (Scandinavia)
- tiet canh, a stew made with duck blood (Viet Nam)
- cabidela, a sauce made with chicken or rabbit blood (Brazil and Portugal)
- black pudding, a sausage made with pork blood (United Kingdom)
- saksang, a stew made with pork or water buffalo blood (Indonesia)
- nanchi, a dressing made with sheep blood (Chile)
- haejangguk, a broth made with ox blood (Korea)
- blood and milk, a Maasai drink made with cattle blood (Kenya and Tanzania)
- blood tofu, made with pork or duck blood (Hong Kong)
fluid pumped by the heart through arteries and veins, delivering nutrients to tissues. In humans, blood consists of plasma in which red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are suspended.
tubes through which blood circulates.
to use up.
infectious disease spread by mosquitoes, with symptoms ranging from headaches to joint pain to death.
harmful condition of a body part or organ.
sometimes fatal disease, often transmitted by mosquitoes, affecting the brain.
aquatic animals with gills, and usually fins and scales.
material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.
animal that consumes blood as food.
process of consuming blood as food.
organism that is home to a parasite.
type of animal that breathes air and has a body divided into three segments, with six legs and usually wings.
infectious disease caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes.
animal with hair that gives birth to live offspring. Female mammals produce milk to feed their offspring.
sweet plant material that attracts pollinators.
substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.
up to a person's choice.
to push through.
very infectious, often fatal, disease caused by bacteria.
powdery material produced by plants, each grain of which contains a male gamete capable of fertilizing a female ovule.
long, narrow mouthpart used by many insects for piercing and sucking.
infectious disease caused by a virus, often associated with wild animals, with symptoms ranging from muscle spasms to death.
to pass along information or communicate.
highly infectious and sometimes deadly disease with symptoms of itching sores and severe headache, caused by lice.
animal that transmits a disease from one organism to another.
to swell or build up.
West Nile virus
infectious disease spread by mosquitoes, with symptoms ranging from mild flu to possible death.