Washington, Oct 22 (ANI): For a long time, chupacabras - a hairless, fanged animal - has been labelled as a monster that attacked and drank the blood of livestock.
But University of Michigan biologist Barry Oconnor believes that chupacabras is as much victim as a villain. Oconnor reveals that a tiny, eight-legged creature turns a healthy, wild animal into a chupacabras.
The existence of the chupacabras, also known as the goatsucker, was first surmised from livestock attacks in Puerto Rico, where dead sheep were discovered with puncture wounds, completely drained of blood.
Then came sightings of evil-looking animals, variously described as dog-like, rodent-like or reptile-like, with long snouts, large fangs, leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and a nasty odor. Locals put two and two together and assumed the ugly varmints were responsible for the killings.
However, scientists have found that a skin condition caused by mites burrowing under the skin causes them to behave like coyotes.
OConnor explained that the mite responsible for the extreme hair loss seen in "chupacabras syndrome" is Sarcoptes scabiei, which also causes the itchy rash known as scabies in people.
When humans began domesticating animals, Sarcoptes scabiei found a whole new realm of potential victims - dogs and eventually wild members of the dog family-foxes, wolves and coyotes.
"It does a lot of damage, and mortality can be relatively high because that host species has not had any evolutionary history with the parasite, so it has not been able to evolve any defenses like we have," said Oconnor.
Blood supply to hair follicles is cut off, so the fur falls out. In especially bad cases, the animal's weakened condition opens the door to bacteria that cause secondary skin infections, sometimes producing a foul odor. Put it all together, and you've got the chupacabras.
"Because these animals are greatly weakened, they're going to have a hard time hunting," OConnor said. "So they may be forced into attacking livestock because it's easier than running down a rabbit or a deer." (ANI)