Newly Discovered Spider Species Named After Hot Wheels for Its Weird Genitals

Meet “hotwheels sisyphus,” a new species of spider so named for its unusual anatomy.

byJames Gilboy|
Hotwheels sisyphus spider next to the Hot Wheels track it was named for
Mattel, ZooKeys


If I asked you if you wanted to come over and play with Hot Wheels, you'd expect to be sending a little Ford GT off a ramp as fast as it can go. What you might find instead is a small, randy, newly discovered genus of spider from China that scientists have named for an iconic Mattel toy. Why? Because they think its reproductive organs look like everyone's favorite Forza Horizon expansion.

The discovery and classification of the spider, whose scientific name is "hotwheels sisyphus," was chronicled in a paper published on ZooKeys by researchers from Hebei University in Baoding, China. In the paper, scientists say they found the creature in southwestern China, a region with the highest biodiversity of spiders in the country. They observed several individuals of a species that resembled the known synaphosus platnick and shadab, but were anatomically distinct, leading to the establishment of a new genus under the gnaphosidae (or ground spider) family.

Hotwheels sisyphus. Hebei University via ZooKeys

The researchers say they derived the name of its genus, hotwheels, directly from the beloved toy due to the structure of the male spiders' reproductive organs.

"The generic name refers to Hot Wheels, a collectible die-cast toy car made by Mattel, as the long, coiled embolus of this new genus resembles a Hot Wheels track," wrote the researchers.

Now, I'm an arachnophobe who's deeply unsettled by reading about any of this, but I'm gonna give my best shot at explaining what's going on. The embolus is a tube in some spiders' reproductive organs that's used to store and deliver sperm during mating. It seems to be analogous to a combination of the epididymis and vas deferens in humans. In hotwheels sisyphus, this structure is coiled inside the palpal bulbs: a pair of appendages whose appearance is sometimes likened to arms tipped with boxing gloves.

Functionally, they seem to be similar to a penis, and are inserted into the female during mating. But since they lack nerves, they can be difficult to position as explained in a 2010 scientific paper.

"Because of the lack of nerves in the palpal bulb, the challenges faced by a male spider attempting to copulate can be likened to those of a person attempting to adjust a complex, delicate mechanism in the dark, using an elongate, elaborately formed fingernail," the paper said.

In a sense, imagine if reproducing required putting away an entire, fully set up Hot Wheels track in the dark with your hands fully numbed. If that sounds like your cup of tea, my OnlyFans link will be in the comments. If not, that's probably for the best: Many species of spiders engage in sexual cannibalism, where the female eats the male after mating. Again, more at my OnlyFans.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: