If Manananggals existed and adapted into what they were in Folklore, how exactly would they? This is for a world i'm making, would this creature have been driven to extinction or could it possibly survive over the millions of years?

The Manananggal is a Vampire like creature which can separate its upper torso and sprouting wings to fly and feeds on usually pregnant women using a proboscis-like tongue to suck the hearts from fetuses or blood from someone asleep.

My main actual question is would I have to resort to Supernatural being the reason it exists the way it does or could science and evolution actually explain how the Manananggal exists

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hello, could you please expand a bit your question? I had to search the internet what Manananggal is. The question should not force me to do the research for question $\endgroup$ Oct 20, 2018 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, at the very least, please Edit your question to provide the relevant information about the creature you have in mind. As it stands, I'm afraid that this is rather unclear, since additional information not contained within the question is absolutely necessary to be able to even begin to provide an answer. Also, good Worldbuilding SE questions generally focus on some specific, named aspect. Both of those may be why this has been downvoted, and it could certainly lead to it being temporarily put on hold until that extra information is added. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ What aspects of the Manananggal do you want to focus on? Are you looking at the blood sucking part, the aversion to garlic and salt part, or the detachable torso part? Focusing on one aspect would narrow the question and also address any issues that might come up from multiple opinions about what a Manananggal is. Folklore is rarely uniform across a culture. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ Please see the instructions for submitting an Anatomically Correct question via the Anatomically Correct series Meta page and follow the instructions. AC questions are only permissible when asked in the context of the AC series. Once this question has been improved to meet those expectations, I'd be happy to VTR. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 20, 2018 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ I posted an answer in a form to demonstrate why the OP needs to provide more of the details listed on the Meta page JBH mentioned while hopefully still being useful. Hopefully such edits come in. If not, I'll be a VTC vote shortly myself, until the corrections are made. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Oct 20, 2018 at 23:45

3 Answers 3


The general answer is "yes, you need to rely on the supernatural, if you want to precisely match a supernatural creature in every way." If you focus on a list of aspects you are actually interested in, it's easier to explore.

For example, the wings must be supernatural if they "sprout." A 50 pound flying entity such as the upper torso of a human female is going to need large wings which won't simply be generated nightly as needed. Instead, they should be tucked away carefully to be re-used night after night.

The detachable torso is a strange thing. The reattachable torso is even stranger. There are examples of animals which detach limbs. Lizards, for instance, often have a special muscle to sever their tail to confuse predators. The tail then grows back (once). So the kind of musculature you need to detach the torso does indeed exist.

The reattachment gives me trouble. I don't think this could be done well because of the nervous system. Reattaching nerves in a human is nearly impossible with multiple hours of careful surgery. Reattaching them regularly will be very tricky. Your creature would basically have to re-learn to walk like an infant every morning.

As such, they would likely have tremendously limited muscle control. They'd probably have legs that don't look human with very large feet and rigid legs to provide support when there isn't a nervous system constantly keeping it upright (human beings are in a constant state of falling unless the brain and spinal column intervene).

If it's a Manananggal, exactly as defined in Folklore, I think that's a show-stopper. But you haven't specified what aspects of a Manananggal are important to you. What if the creature is actually two creatures with a symbiotic relationship. The bottom half moves the pair efficiently (walking is way more efficient than flying in most cases). However, when the whole pair can't get to food, the top half could detach and do its work. This would lead to a far simpler communication between top half and bottom half than a real animal nervous system, so reattachment would be easier.

  • $\begingroup$ Symbiosis was exactly what I was going to suggest too :) $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Oct 20, 2018 at 18:36

The obvious answer is that yes, supernatural explanations are needed. But that answer is boring, so let's try something else.

The Manananggal is a species of bat that has evolved to disguise itself as human. Like a hermit crab and it's shell, they use an external pair of legs to keep up the disguise.

It evolved because this bat once discovered how to hide among prey, and live as a parasite amidst a human community. Done successfully, this proved a huge survival advantage, and so over the generations their disguises have gotten better and better. Their entire survival relies on appearing human, and the ones that can't keep up the act have been killed.

Physically, the Manananggal is a bat as large as a human's chest. They fold up their wings, they assume a human like position, and they can masquerade as the upper half of a human. Perhaps they use masks of human skin to aid their disguise, or they scavenge heavy hoods overwise. They have learnt to use human clothing and skin to hide themselves.

The bottom half is from the body of a dead person. The Manananggal digs up a human corpse to aid their disguise, and then uses their legs like a puppet. Hollow out the bones, stick your legs into there, you've got crude human legs.

It spilts because the bottom torso legs doesn't actually belong to the Manananggal. Instead, a Manananggal will just scavenge a deceased human and use it's body like a puppet, hiding in the upper half. Come night, and when it leaves its corpse shell, the legs are too heavy to carry. So it simply severs itself, reveals it's wings and flies off with the upper torso.

If ever its corpse becomes too decayed to be an effective disguise, the bat simply abandons it and find another. The actual Manananggal swaps from body to body as needed. They are capable burrowers, to dig up graves.

Naturally, since they're wearing human corpses, their appearance is that of an extremely disheveled old man/woman. They appear unkempt, rough and smelly, but human. They pretend to be frail, infirm and near incapable of moving, such that they are nursed by a community. They know that humans are social creatures that will care for the elderly, and so the bat exploits this.

This bat is a parasite that hides in a community, yet every night they reveal their true form and drain a person's blood for food. Naturally, the Manananggal targets the vulnerable - the young, the old and the pregnant.

It uses its wings to assault sleeping prey at night, and then return to its old woman ruse on a morning.

Provided nobody discovers it, it's an effective disguise. The human community provides protection and shelter, as well as a convenient food source. The bat simply has to pretend to be a frail old lady with trouble walking.


It could be the remnants of a Genetically Engineered organism

If you're trying to avoid supernatural settings, the Genetic Engineering could explain the existence of the Manananggal. Your modern or medieval world could have been preceded by a technologically advanced civilization that created the Manananggal via genetic experimentation and engineering. It could even explain the downfall of said civilization (escaped specimens that bred multiplied) and their now-endangered status (hunting, overpopulation, etc.)

Alternatively, the Manananggal could have been engineered by an alien species and made its way to your world without their knowledge. (This would resemble one of the origin theories of the Chupacabras.)

In both cases the Manananggal would be artificially created and accidentally released into the wild. All that would be left would be filling in the details.


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