Have you heard the myth about how humans are the most gullible creatures on planet Earth? If not, that's because we just made it up. But we're thinking it might be a myth worth spreading, because as we've pointed out before -- twice, even -- when it comes to myths about our neighbors in the animal kingdom, people tend to buy into even the most far-fetched ideas with nary a second thought. Like ...
#8. You're Never More Than Three Feet from a Spider, and It Wants to Lay Eggs in You
Spiders are so common that you're literally within three feet of one, right now. They're everywhere -- millions of them -- just waiting to jump out and horrify you with their too-many-eyes, or worse, lay their eggs inside your skin like some kind of goddamned alien. Or did you hear about the time where that one lady ordered a cactus and it exploded with baby tarantulas? Or maybe it was some bananas. Hell, maybe it was both. Spiders are fucking everywhere, that's the point.
"... It's probably just a hair. It's probably just a hair. It's probably just ..."
The "never more than three feet away" thing seems to have originated in 1995 when arachnologist Norman Platnick began an article with "Wherever you sit as you read these lines, a spider is probably no more than a few yards away." Which is technically true, especially if you keep in mind the "probably" modifier. But, as the years went by, the line was repeatedly misquoted by other articles, evolving into "Scientists estimate you're never more than three feet from a spider." Even Platnick misquoted himself in a CNN interview, saying that "You're probably within seven or eight feet of a spider, no matter where you are."
Above: Dr. Platnick, proving his point.
If you're standing in a lush grass lawn, then yeah, there might be tiny, harmless spiders right under your feet or as close as a few centimeters. If you're in parking lot, on the other hand, the closest spider could be as far as 100 feet. If you're in a jet over the ocean, the closest spider might be a ballooner getting sucked into the engines. So you probably do pass by a lot of spiders without ever even knowing it, but there's no scientific claim or study that ever said you were always within a certain distance of one.
As for the numerous legends of hidden parasitic spider eggs, this is said to have begun around the time the beehive was a popular hairdo, and it later evolved into a myth that spiders lurk in dreadlocks. Let's make fun of the spider-haired freaks, everybody! They're filthy!
"Say what you want. No one mugs the man with spider hair."
In reality, spider eggs are pretty delicate, take a long time to develop and need to be kept somewhere stable and safe. Some spiders carry their young on their backs, some carry them around in their mouths and others hang them in their webs in special little bags. They don't have any kind of appendage to insert eggs into hair, skin, other bugs, mouths, eyeballs or wherever the hell else you've been told by Internet horror stories. They leave all that shit to wasps.
#7. Bats Will Fly into Your Hair
Movies like to show bats flying into protagonists' faces as they scream and flail about, or getting tangled in women's hair. We seem to have some instinctive fear of this happening, and if you browse around the Internet, it seems like people are pretty sure that's the kind of kinky shit bats are into. Hey, we use bats as Halloween decorations for a reason; they're basically horrible, hairy, rabid sky-rats that want nothing more than to dive-bomb your head, tangle up in your hair like flapping bubblegum and ... we don't know, lay a bunch of bat eggs or something?
In about four seconds this whole picture will be poop.
Gary McCracken, zoologist and writer for BATS "yes that's a real magazine" Magazine has found these stories running rampant from the Americas to Europe and parts of Asia. So it has to be true, right?
While we can't say that a bat has never ended up in somebody's hair, it's certainly more of a freak occurrence than a conscious attempt on the bat's part. Bats not only have nothing to gain from the human scalp, but can't even be tricked into somebody's head. Their agility and echolocation are precise enough to detect and dodge even a single hair or pluck a single tasty mosquito out of the sky. Researchers have even deliberately tried to get bats to fly into their hair, because scientists just get so incredibly bored sometimes, with no success.
"Alright, screw cancer. Let's see how uncomfortable we can make some grad students."
"But Cracked," we hear you say, "why do bats flap all up in our faces, then?" Well, anyone who's ever stepped outside on a summer night knows that the human body is a virtual bug magnet -- especially to parasites like mosquitoes, which may as well come in a bag labeled "Bat Doritos." And all those scented shampoos and hair sprays you use can attract even more, so you may as well just wear a flashing neon sign above your head reading "Bug Buffet: Bats Eat FREE."
So bats will get near your head, it's just that with that amazing sonar we talked about, a bat can swipe a single gnat mere inches from your face and never even touch you. It's almost as if they're swooping down from the night sky to protect us. Black-winged guardian angels of the dark, sworn to protect the innocent from evil, just like ... you know. Aquaman.
Only more sexually viable.
#6. Turkeys Drown in the Rain
Domesticated turkeys are so dumb that, if left outside during a rainstorm, they will drown as a result of not closing their mouths as they stare up in wonder at the magical skywater.
You'd think someone would put up a tarp, at the very least.
Americans already devour turkeys as a way of celebrating cultural integration, do we really need to insult their intelligence, too? That's just rubbing salt in their wounds. OK, that sounds delicious, but we should not also be feasting on the side dish of ignorance.
Moist, steamy ignorance with a crispy golden skin.
To refute this myth, all you really need to do is think about a turkey's goofy, goofy face -- specifically, its eyes. You see, turkeys' eyes are set on the sides of their heads, which gives them a greater field of vision, but also means that they can't see directly in front of them like humans can. The position of their eyes means that even if a turkey were to tilt its head back (like they supposedly do, in order to watch the falling rain), it would still be looking to the sides, not up. Tilting its head backward to look up is something only a cartoon turkey would do.
But honestly, did we even need to get that technical with it? The whole idea that an animal being fascinated by rain makes it stupid is in fact ass backwards -- the whole concept of "fascination" requires a level of intelligence that turkeys simply don't possess. They're too stupid to even know it's raining, or to remember the last time it rained. It's not their fault. They're turkeys.
Ben Franklin only liked them because he was a fatass. Sorry, gourmand.
#5. The Female Praying Mantis Eats the Male After Sex
An endless inspiration to hardcore feminists or angry males who want something to compare hardcore feminists to, the female praying mantis always ensures that her mate's first time is his last time. She literally bites the male's head off in the middle of sex and devours the rest of his carcass before he even has a chance to pull out. You go, girl!
This is what they call a "money bite."
It takes an awful lot of devotion and/or mental illness to just go out and find some insects boning each other, so much of what we knew about praying mantis sex originally came from observing them in captivity, confined in small tanks under bright lights, with giant hairless ape-monsters looming over their every move.
"Oh shit, is that a camera? You may as well bite my head off before my mom sees."
Entomologists soon realized that this was the exact opposite of how most mantises (or literally anything else in the world) would normally have sex, which is usually under cover, protected from the prying eyes of opportunistic predators and kinky voyeurs both. They finally figured out that this might be skewing their data in weird ways.
So when researchers set up tiny hidden cameras to catch mantises mating in more comfortable, natural surroundings, the male was attacked and eaten only once in 69 experiments, and only then because the female was really, really hungry -- it had nothing to do with the regular mating ritual.
We're not sure why they decided to watch bugs humping exactly 69 times, but we have to assume that at least one copy was taken home for "personal research."