8 Animals Named After Vampires

vampire crab with bright red claws sits on log

Dan Olsen / Getty Images

When it comes to naming and describing creatures in the animal kingdom, it can be best to not be too literal. In fact, some of the most appropriate names come from mythology. Whether it's because of their eating habits, coloring, or dental design, the following eight creatures have earned themselves an association with vampires.

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Vampire Squirrel

profile of vampire squirrel perched on rooftop

Kristen "Shoe" Shoemaker / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Technically called the tufted ground squirrel, the vampire squirrel is found in the forested hills of Borneo. It is known for two things:

First, local legend describes these squirrels as vicious hunters. They will sit on a low tree branch waiting for deer to pass by. When one does, it will take a flying leap to the jugular of the animal, slicing it open and eviscerating it to eat the internal organs. While it's difficult to believe that a squirrel could be such a ferocious predator and take down prey many times its size, the legend has nevertheless clung to the species enough to give it its vampiric nickname.

The vampire squirrel's second notable characteristic is much more enjoyable: It has the world's fluffiest tail. This is not an exaggeration — it's an official title. The tail is 30 percent larger than the volume of the squirrel's body. Researches speculate that the overly fluffy tail may have to do with escaping predators by providing mostly hair — rather than body — as a target.

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Dracula Ant

scientific shot of dracula ant under microscope

April Nobile / © AntWeb.org / CC BY-SA 3.0

Dracula ants are a member of the rare genus Mystrium, endemic to Madagascar. They are named after the famous bloodsucker for their behavior dubbed "nondestructive cannibalism," in which they suck the blood of their young. More specifically, they poke holes in the abdomen of their larvae to feed on their hemolymph (the ant version of blood). The larvae aren't harmed by this. The only exception is if the colony is starving, in which case the adult dracula ants will fully consume their larvae.

A 2018 study found that dracula ants have the fastest animal movement on record; they can snap their mandibles at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Researchers explained that this is possible because the ants press together the tips of their mandibles, essentially spring-loading them, building up internal pressure to be released. The action is often compared to a human finger snap. While impressive, it is unclear whether the dracula ant's fast-snapping ability was evolved for predation or defense purposes.

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Vampire Squid

display of black vampire squid in english museum

Emőke Dénes / Wikimedia Commons / CC by SA 4.0

The scientific name for this species is Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally meaning "vampire squid from hell." This name comes from the squid's appearance, specifically because of the way the skin that connects its arms resembles a cape when it swims, as well as its large eyes that can appear red.

The vampire squid is so unique that it was put in its own order, Vampyromorpha. It is the only squid species to live in the oxygen minimum zone in the ocean. Where most squid species can live in oxygen levels below 50 percent, with some living in levels as low as 20 percent, this creature lives in levels as low as 5 percent.

The reddish-brown squid also has the ability to use bioluminescence to avoid predators and attract prey. Not only does it have light-producing organs called photophores on its body to confuse predators, but it can also eject a cloud of bioluminescent mucus from the tips of its arms when threatened, giving it a chance to escape into the darkness of the surrounding water.

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Vampire Flying Frog

The vampire flying frog sounds a lot more fantastic than it actually is. Endemic to Vietnam, it's a small brown frog that has extra webbing between its toes to help it glide during leaps to cover more distance.

The vampiric aspect of this amphibian is apparent when it is in its tadpole form. Rather than the beak-like mouth of most tadpoles, the tadpole of the vampire flying frog has big, sharp, black fangs. Because there is no food available in the little pools of water in which the tadpoles grow, the mother frog lays unfertilized eggs to be eaten. The tadpoles use their fangs to cut through the mucus surrounding the yolk so they can swallow the meal. It is the only species known to have such an adaptation.

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Vampire Crab

purple vampire crab with long legs and bright yellow eyes

Dan Olsen / Getty Images

Two crab species under the genus Geosesarma are colloquially called vampire crabs. With their dark bodies, bright purple or red claws, and striking yellow eyes, their color scheme resembles the classic vampire.

Interestingly, vampire crabs were popular in the pet trade well before they were described by science. In fact, researchers looking into the creatures had to track down collectors to discover where to look. Eventually, they were traced back to the Indonesian island of Java. With their native habitat found, the next concern is protecting these colorful crabs from over-collection as a result of their popularity as pets.

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Dracula Fish

transparent fish with guts showing in the water

Courtesy of SeriouslyFish.com

The Danionella dracula, better known as the Dracula fish, is a minuscule fish that doesn't invoke the kind of fear you may expect. It's only when you get a close look at its jaw structure that you understand its namesake.

The tiny, 0.67-inch fish evolved away from having teeth about 50 million years ago, but 30 million years later it evolved to have fang-like bones as part of its jaw structure. Only the males have these tooth-like structures.

While perhaps intimidating when viewed under a microscope, these fish never grow past being "baby" Draculas. Even as adults, they retain a larval-like body, with more than 40 fewer bones than their close relatives, the zebrafish.

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Vampire Tetra

Hydrolycus armatus fish underwater
Pictured here is the Hydrolycus armatus, a species of dogtooth characin. It is sometimes known as the payara, a name it shares with the related H. scomberoides.

Secundus Zephyrus / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

If you found the Dracula fish underwhelming, consider the payara, which is sometimes referred to as the saber-tooth barracuda and, more interestingly, the vampire tetra.

Found in Venezuela, this fish can grow up to 15 inches long, with fangs up to six inches long. The species typically grows smaller in captivity, though. The vampiric creature uses its fangs for hunting, skewering fish before swallowing them.

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Vampire Moth

tan vampire moth with large wings landing on tree trunk

Ilia Ustyantsev / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

As it turns out, mosquitoes are not the only blood-sucking insect. Commonly called a vampire moth, Calyptra thalictri is widespread in central and southern Europe.

It is known to feed only on fruit. However, researchers found a Russian population of vampire moths that uses their barb-lined tongues to drill through the skin of mammals — even buffalos — to suck blood. When the researchers exposed the moths to humans as their only source of food, the males didn't hesitate to feed on human blood.

It is hypothesized that the males do this to provide salt to females during mating, which then provides better nutrition to the larvae. Because of this, some think that these moths could be on an evolutionary trajectory away from their fruit-only diet.