Even though I’m terrified of spiders, I still enjoy writing about them. Maybe I think that if I follow arachnid news closely enough, they won’t be able to pull one over on me, and I’ll know what to look out for. I can also breathe a sigh of relief when I learn that certain, dinner-plate-sized spiders don’t live anywhere near me, or anywhere I’m planning to visit anytime soon. And right now, I’m thanking my lucky stars that I don’t own a Mazda6.
Mazda just recalled 42,000 Mazda6 sedans because of infestations of yellow sac spiders. Apparently there’s a vulnerability in the fuel tank hose that allows spiders to find their way in. But why would they do that? Has gas gotten so expensive that even those eight-legged buggers need to siphon it? The reason is even stranger that that. There’s something in the gasoline hydrocarbons that draws the spiders. If they start making webs in the fuel tank, all kinds of havoc could ensue, including cracks in the tank and the possibility of fires, though, to this date, no known fires have been started by spider shenanigans.
This isn’t the first time Mazda has dealt with the yellow sac spiders. In 2011 it recalled 52,000 cars for the same reason. There were at least 20 reported infestation cases and the manufacturer attempted to fix any fuel systems and add a spring into the tank to prevent infiltration. But if Ian Malcolm taught us anything, it’s that nature finds a way. Obviously, the spring hasn’t solved the issue, and Mazda also designed, but for some reason didn’t install, software to help prevent any cracking of the fuel tanks as a result of spider inhabitance. But now, after 9 reports of cracked fuel tanks, Mazda issued the recall to install the software. Yeah, I think I’m all set on Mazdas.
Speaking of spiders, let’s talk for a minute about daddy long legs, which are also, creepily, called Harvestmen (I don’t even want to know why). I know daddy long legs aren’t technically spiders, but the differences are subtle enough that they fall into the same category for me. One of the features that distinguish daddy long legs from spiders is the number of eyes. Most spiders, terrifyingly, have at least six eyes, but daddy long legs only have two. But back in the day, they had four.
In an article published in Current Biology, scientists published findings indicating that daddy long legs used to have an extra set of peepers. They learned this by examining a 305 million year old harvestman fossil, which is a rarity given that it’s unusual for such a fragile frame to remain intact for so long. Apparently, daddy long legs were the first arthropod to appear on land.
They began diversifying later than scientists initially thought, nearly 100 million years after they first appeared on land. Modern species bear a slight trace of the eyestalks where the extra pair used to be, but they disappeared over time, possibly because they lived in dark places where they didn’t have to see. But I bet they could still find their way into a fuel tank.