Wed
Jan 16 2013 2:00pm

Monster of the Week: Winged Devourers (Beastmaster)

Monster of the Week: Winged Devourers (Beastmaster)For a certain class of vorarephile, no fantasy is more enticing than one that ends inside a monster’s stomach. These strange fetishists crave the confinement of a Sarlacc’s belly. They lust for the Rancor’s gaping maw. It’s totally a thing.

Yet vores rarely fantasize about the winged creatures of Don Coscarelli’s 1982 film The Beastmaster. These nameless man-eaters haunt strange woods, worship the eagle and boast one of the more disgusting feeding methods in the monster world.

Tall, gaunt and bipedal, the monsters are unique anatomical specimens even among other monsters. For starters, their large bat-like wings grant them at least limited flight—an impressive feat for such a large organism.

But their wings have another purpose.

 

How it Eats
As grotesquely illustrated below, the winged devourers use their wings to capture and hold human prey. Once secured, they vomit a corrosive solvent over the squirming meal’s head. This is a form of external digestion, which you’ve also seen in spiders, the common housefly or the extremely rare Brundlefly.

Once regurgitated, the caustic upchuck sinks in for a few moments, liquefying flesh right off the bone. Then the monster sucks most of the grotesque soup back up into its gullet for a tasty meal.

Clearly, the creature lacks anything resembling a proper jaw—and this is key. Since it lacks the basic tools of mastication, it has to break down flesh into a liquid to consume it.

After sucking up as much of the liquefied flesh as possible, the creature simply throws open its wings and lets the slimy remnants of bone and armor plop to the ground. Yet since the winged devourers are clearly intelligent and cultured beings, so they’re not about to waste those precious bones. Instead, they employ a very human mode of external digestion—cooking—to boil these indigestible bits down into a slurpable stew.

 

Hominid, bat or bird?

No other vertebrate eats quite like our winged devourer, but there’s still plenty of regurgitation to go around. Bats and birds both vomit to feed young. The proboscis monkey vomits and re-chews its food. Vultures even vomit as a defensive measure—though not strictly as a means to burn or gross-out their prey. According to the Turkey Vulture Society, they may do it to lighten the load for emergency takeoff—and they might just vomit up that heap of partially digested carrion to bribe a hungry predator. “Why eat me when you can have THIS.”

But the turkey vulture’s vomit is still highly corrosive—powerful enough to break down rancid corpse flesh and the toxic bacteria therein. This may provide the strongest clue to the winged devourer’s evolutionary past. Perhaps they were once scavenging avians, cruising for carrion and scarfing it down on sight. Then, as they evolved, they discovered a new way to use their powerful digestive juices.

After all, what’s more appetizing? Yesterday’s dead antelope or freshly-liquefied human smoothie? I think you’ll agree they made the right choice.

Monster of the Week is a—you guessed it—regular look at the denizens of our monster-haunted world. In some of these, we’ll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend. Other times, we’ll just wax philosophic about the monster’s underlying meaning. After all, the word “monstrosity” originates from the Latin monstrare, which meant to show or illustrate a point.

Image by Migg Verbasan

Originally Published at HSW: Monster of the Week: Winged Devourers (Beastmaster)


Robert Lamb is a senior staff writer at HowStuffWorks.com and co-host of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast and blog. He is also a regular contributor to Discovery News. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. If you’re into that sort of thing.

3 comments
Jack Flynn
1. JackofMidworld
Oh, good lord, I totally remember these guys! Hadn't thought about them in years and the last time I saw them, I was but a wee lad. Even all these years later, the image of the steaming, clunking leftovers when they threw open their wings give me chills.
wizard clip
2. wizard clip
And the Beastmaster just stands there and watches the monster liquify the guy! Nice work, hero.

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