8 Ridiculous Animal Myths You Probably Believe
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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."
If You Throw Rice at Weddings, You're a Bird Murderer
If you throw rice, birds will eat it. And when they do, it will expand in their stomachs and cause them to explode like little feathery hand grenades. You may as well just hand out shotguns loaded up with bird shot for the guests to fire over the newly joined couple's heads as they make their exit.
On the upside, it's a cheap way to drum up extra entrees for the wedding dinner.
Fire away! With the rice, that is. Not the shotguns. It turns out that, as we expected all along, in order to make birds explode spectacularly you'll need something like firecrackers and some duct tape, or Randy Johnson's fastball. Oh, or Alka-Seltzer, because that one's totally for real (honest).
There are a few other options, of course.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, tons of birds eat rice in the fields. In fact, they say that "Some birds cause so much damage to rice crops that they are considered agricultural pests." But a bunch of facilities still ban throwing rice anyway -- either because they aren't willing to let something as crazy as the exploding-bird myth die, or because rice on sidewalks transforms all your wedding guests into potential America's Funniest Home Videos winners.
Still, the sad fact remains that if a little rice really did cause birds to blow up in a fusillade of feathers (we're imagining a '70s-era Elton John moonlighting as a fireworks designer), we would live in a significantly more hilarious universe.
Well now there's basically no reason to get married.
A Goldfish Only Has a Memory Span of Three Seconds
A goldfish can only remember something for three, maybe five seconds, which is about how long it takes to swim from one end of its fishbowl to the other. See? You don't need to feel bad about storing your little guy in a cramped container smaller than a cookie jar. Each time he swims over to the little plastic castle, it's like a whole new experience! He's so stupid, he's having the time of his life in there!
That little bastard lives better than we do.
Fish can actually remember for three, maybe five months, which is plenty of time to decide that life might not be worth living if it's spent trapped in a cramped, transparent, aquatic penitentiary.
We realize that some of you immediately said "They did this one on MythBusters!" the moment you saw the headline. But even before Adam and Jamie taught their fish to swim through an obstacle course, a 15-year-old from Australia performed an experiment by training pet fish to associate a beacon with food. After removing the beacon and replacing it a week later, the fish still beelined to it.
"Steak please, garcon!"
Even more shocking, scientists at the Israeli Technion Institute of Technology spent a month training young fish to associate a particular sound with feeding time, then released the fish into the wild. The fish still responded to the sound, five months later.
You know, it's almost like natural selection wouldn't even allow a species to survive if it forgot that there was a predator behind it three seconds into the chase. Now we need a second round of experiments to see if goldfish are capable of hating their owners.
If they can remember, they can plot.
One Human Year Is Equivalent to Seven Dog Years
Your parents probably taught you this one when trying to delicately break the news of how close little Spot was to moving away to live on a nice farm: The idea is that a 1-year-old dog is equivalent to a 7-year-old human, a 2-year-old dog is 14 in human years, etc.
Which makes Grandma the youngest person in this picture.
Treating your 1-year-old dog like a 7-year-old human is fine, provided you know a lot of sexually active 7-year-olds. Scientists and dog experts have been trying to quell the propagation of the seven-year myth for years, maintaining that estimating a dog's age is inexact and often changes based on the dog's breed -- average lifespans among the hundreds of different dog breeds can range from 8 to 16 years.
The math only gets more complicated from there, but generally speaking, it turns out that developmentally, a 1-year-old dog is closer to a 17-year-old human being than a 7-year-old one. Then the increments get smaller from there, you'd have to make a graph or something to track it. Or you could just get used to the idea that a 9-year-old dog is the equivalent of a 9-year-old dog and get on with your life.
"Goddammit, Bibbles. You should know better than that. Aren't you like 25?"
It's kind of surprising that this myth ever got off the ground ... surely you've heard of more 16-year-old dogs than humans who lived to be 112. But this will not be the last time in your life you'll see humans preferring their math to be simple rather than correct.
Dogs See in Black and White
Everyone knows that dogs see the world in the same light as an edgy indie movie director. Which really makes us question the point of differentiating the various flavors of Milk-Bone by color -- maybe they should put little pictures on them or something.
Also, we kind of doubt any dog would see this shape and think "bone" in the first place.
The truth is more nuanced. It's true that dog eyes don't see colors the same way human eyes do, but they do see them:
So apparently we look like zombies to them.
Dogs' eyes don't have quite as many cones as humans' (if you didn't pay attention in biology class, cones are the little things that help us differentiate between colors), so they see different colors than we do. Instead of seeing the good old Roy G. Biv color spectrum, dogs see the rainbow as "dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark gray." In other words, dogs see the colors of the world as basically yellow, blue and gray. They see green, yellow and orange as all being yellowish, and they see violet and blue as being the same color.
So if you've ever bought a red or orange ball and tried to play fetch on green grass, your dog probably thinks you're a dick.
"You absolute bastard."
For more myths you probably think are true, check out 5 Ridiculous Animal Myths That You Probably Believe and 5 Ridiculous Sex Myths From History (You Probably Believe).