Monster of the Week: Santanico Pandemonium

Satanico Pandemonium takes the stage. Dimension Films

Vampire women pose a special threat to the Mexican way of life, forcing the nation's leading Luchadors to occasionally step in and aid eradication efforts. But even these masked heroes face a challenge against such unnaturally alluring females.

(Dimension Films)

We've discussed the humanoid vampire already in this series, but the Mexican variant is a far different creature.

These bestial blood drinkers thrive in ancient Aztec tombs and occasionally operate strip clubs atop the ruins to lure in bikers and travelers. Here one might catch a performance by Santico Pandemonium, whose bikini-clad snake dance sends a clear mating signal to male humans in attendance.*

But of course she's not a human at all. She's a serpentine blood drinker who just happens to excel at another species' mating game.

While clearly an unnatural creature, her tactics are not unheard of in the natural world.

Fireflies and Vampire Women

For an example of sexually-deceptive predation between two distinct species, we need look no further than the Female fireflies of the genus Photuris. Often refereed to as femme fatale lightning bugs, the female mimics the flash signals of a mating female Photinus lightning bug -- a related but separate lightning bug species.

She's not interested in interspecies sex. The whole charade is aimed at drawing in horny male Photinus lightning bugs and then devouring them.

Oh, and there's a delightfully vampric side to this behavior as well. According to a 1997 study published in the journal Defense Mechanisms of Arthropods, the femme fatale Photuris bugs steal both nutrients and a defensive steroid called lucibufagins from their Photinus prey.

Lucibufagins works as a spider deterrent, but Photuris bugs can't produce the steroid like their Photinus kin -- so the females simply drain it from their Photinus victims.

And so the vampire women of Mexico simply pull a page from the lightning bug playbook and use human mating rituals (such as sexy snake dances) to draw in human prey.

They drain our blood and gorge on our flesh, but what other crucial substances might they gain in the process?

Sadly, the researchers have yet to return from the desert.

Monster of the Week is a - you guessed it - regular look at the denizens is of our monster-haunted world. Sometimes we'll focus on the cultural aspects, but mostly we'll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend. Be sure to explore the Monster Gallery as well as the Monster Science video series.

* Certainly, this statement only applies to heterosexual male humans.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.