These Real-Life Vampires Lived 740 Million Years Ago

These Real-Life Vampires Lived 740 Million Years Ago

Vampires are real. Don't be scared — they're teeny-tiny amoebas that aren't interested in human blood.

Researcher Susannah Porter found fossilized evidence of an ancient species related to a tiny creature called Vampyrellidae amoebae. Vampyrellidae amoebae, or "vampire amoeba," feed by puncturing their prey and sucking out the insides. 

Yikes.

Researchers have shown these "vampires" are all around us. They eat algae, fungi and even some small animals.

And just like the vampires in pop culture, these new fossils show some version of vampire amoebae have been around for millions of years.

Porter discovered tiny circular holes drilled into pieces of 740-million-year-old microfossils in the Grand Canyon. 

The holes are about one micrometer across and consistent with the ones that are created by the vampire amoebae alive today. 

"Larger circular and half-moon-shaped holes in vase-shaped microfossils from the upper part of the unit may also be the work of 'tiny vampires,'" Porter writes in a study describing the fossils.

This is the oldest example that we've found of single-cell eukaryotes eating each other.  Eukaryotic just means the creature's cells have a membrane-bound nucleus.

"To my knowledge these holes are the earliest direct evidence of predation on eukaryotes," Porter told the UC Santa Barbara Current.

The study means predation dates back even farther than we thought, and lots of eukaryotes were probably present in the region millions of years ago.