"Mind the Gappe!" - London Underground Safety Announcement
The Gappe (desmodus metrobii) are a species of carnivorous bat descended from the now extinct Jura bat (desmodus jurii) of the Jura mountains and found exclusively in and around the tunnels of the London Underground. These animals are unusual in being not only the sole known species of blood drinking bat native to anywhere outside the Americas, but also one of the largest with a wingspan recorded at up to 26 inches (66cm)1
The bats were first introduced to the tunnels in the 1870s by French saboteurs who collected adult bats from the colonies that then still existed in the Jura and smuggled them into England in an attempt to undermine the efficient functioning of the British capital.
Luckily for the people of London these large, relatively aggressive animals fared badly in the confined spaces of the undergound network and only the smaller, more elusive individuals survived to the extent that, rather than being a hinderance they were soon found to be a net benefit to the system as they fed on the rats that proliferated down there.
Whilst the source colonies in the Jura were eliminated - mostly by the efforts of the shepherds whose flocks they predated - the London bats continued to thrive as the network expanded and persist to this day, roosting and breeding in the service tunnels and subsisting mainly on vermin - although there are unsubstantiated reports of them taking cats and small breeds of dog from houses close to vents or service tunnel openings.
Occasionally a gappe will be dislodged from its roost by the wave of air generated by a moving train and driven out into a station concourse where it will fly about in a panic, often defecating onto station users and scratching or biting anyone with whom it collides. As a result, station announcements on the London underground routinely include warnings to watch out for stray bats - even though the odds of encountering one on any given journey are minute.
The gappe - or more accurately the Jura bats - may be behind the Roman legends of the Strix.
- Desmodus draculae - possibly a related species2 of large vampire bat thought to have survived the pleistocene era, possibly until quite recently.
- Travel Advice for American Tourists visiting the UK, the gappe are mentioned in the second paragraph from the end although the date for their introduction is wrong.
Game and Story Use
- An attack by a gappe could provide an interesting 'random encounter' for a group travelling by the London Undergound.
- A vampire visiting London hides out in a gappe roost - or takes control of one for a "bat swarm" power.
- The UK mainland is generally rabies free - but other carnivorous bat species elsewhere in the world are known to act as reservoirs. If rabies (or some similar disease) happened to be introduced to the gappe population it could pose a significant biosecurity hazard for the UK.
- Explorers in the tunnels might be mobbed by a roost of starteled gappe - one on its own might be a nuisance but several dozen might inflict significant injuries, especially if their young were threatened.
- Large parts of the London underground are currently derelict - what if, given peace and a plentiful supply of food - the gappe start to drift back towards the size of their sheep worrying ancestors? They might even graduate from eating rats and small pets to feeding on drunks and the homeless and get a taste for blood. They might even cause a vampire scare.
- What about an atavistic throwback? A single large freak bat?
- An above ground area of London is suddenly plagued by gappe - what has driven them out of the tunnels?
- Those aiming for an entirely realistic portrayal of life in real world London should note that the Gappe does not and has never existed and is actually a hoax created to amuse locals at the expense of tourists. Much like the Drop Bear. As far as we know, D. jurii never existed either.