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Vampire bats don't learn from bad lunch

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2:49pm, March 11, 2003

A vampire bat may be the first mammal ever to flunk the ultimate taste test, researchers say.

Mammals that eat something with a novel flavor and then get sick are known to avoid that flavor after just one experience, says John M. Ratcliffe of the University of Toronto. While other bats in a recent test did just that, the common vampire bat came back for more.

Ratcliffe and his colleagues tested an insect-eating species, the big brown bat; the Antillean fruit-eating bat; the Jamaican fruit bat; and the common vampire bat of the New World. Groups of the first three bats were given food flavored with cinnamon, a spice that these Western Hemisphere animals wouldn't have encountered.

The vampires ate cow blood dosed with citric acid, a flavor that earlier tests showed vampires reliably detect.

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