Vampire bats are believed to be the only species of bats in the world to adopt another young bat if something happens to the bat's mother. They share a strong bond with members of the colony even though they may not be genetically related, which is believed to be why they are the only bats and one of the only animals to possess this adoption characteristic. Vampire bats cannot live more than two days without food, and so when a bat of any age cannot find food, a member of the colony will share food with the needy bat in what naturalists have cited as one of the only examples of reciprocal altruism in nature.
It’s not uncommon to find animals helping one another, but in almost all circumstances, these animals are genetically related. As a result, assisting in the survival of a sibling or cousin serves to preserve one’s own genetic material, which makes the survival of a relative of primary importance to any organism.
This is what makes the vampire bat’s willingness to help non-related members of the colony so unique.
In fact, it’s this preservation and promotion of genetic material that scientists have used use to explain the development of human familial bonds.
Even though you may not like your brother very much, and even though he may have tormented you for most of your life and driven his car through the window of the local liquor store last week, you are still more likely to assist him in times of need rather than a stranger or even a close friend because your brother shares a large portion of your genetic makeup, and to assist in his survival helps to promote the advancement of your own genetic material.
I know this sort of debases the idea of unconditional love that family members share, but just think of it as unconditional love with a unconscious, genetic underpinning.
You still love your idiot brother. Now you have a reason why.
This is why I like vampire bats so much. Coming from a less-than-functional family and having lived on my own without an ounce of family assistance since the age of seventeen, I have come to depend on friends in place of family, and I have come to value these relationships at least as much as the relationships I have with family, and in most cases, much more.
Like vampire bats, I have rejected the notion that similarities in genetic material should serve as the basis for relationships. Relatives receive no preferential treatment from me. If I am related to you but do not like you, do not come knocking on my door at the time of the apocalypse.
If I am going to have to struggle to survive in a lawless world, I’d prefer to do it with people I actually like and respect rather than those who I am simply attached to through blood and marriage.
Of course, the fact that it’s the bad-ass, bloodsucking vampire bat that shares this belief with me is also important.
Had bunnies or chinchillas or sparrows embraced friendship over family, I may have been decidedly less enthusiastic about our commonality.