How to make a vampire

Timothy D. Smith, Kristen A. Prufrock, Valerie B. DeLeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Herein, we compared the developmental maturity of the cranium, limbs, and feeding apparatus in a perinatal common vampire bat relative to its mother. In addition, we introduce a method for combining two computed tomographic imaging techniques to three-dimensionally reconstruct endocasts in poorly ossified crania. The Desmodus specimens were scanned using microcomputed tomography (microCT) and diffusible iodine-based contrast-enhanced CT to image bone and soft tissues. Muscles of the jaw and limbs, and the endocranial cavity were segmented using imaging software. Endocranial volume (ECV) of the perinatal Desmodus is 74% of adult ECV. The facial skeletal is less developed (e.g., palatal length 60% of adult length), but volumes for alveolar crypts/sockets of permanent teeth are nearly identical. The forelimb skeleton is uniformly less ossified than the distal hind limb, with no secondary centers ossified and an entirely cartilaginous carpus. All epiphyseal growth zones are active in the brachium and antebrachium, with the distal radius exhibiting the greatest number of proliferating chondrocytes arranged in columns. The hind limb skeleton is precociously ossified from the knee distally. The musculature of the fore limb, temporalis, and masseter muscles appear weakly developed (6–11% of the adult volume). In contrast, the leg and foot musculature is better developed (23–25% of adult volume), possibly enhancing the newborn's capability to grip the mother's fur. Desmodus is born relatively large, and our results suggest they are born neurally and dentally precocious, with generally underdeveloped limbs, especially the fore limb.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnatomical Record
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • altricial
  • epiphyseal plate
  • midfacial
  • odontogenesis
  • precocial


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