Cthulhu found in the Gut of Termites


Morphology of Cthulhu macrofasciculumque by differential interference contrast light microscopy (LM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM)

In his house at the gut of termites, Cthulhu macrofasciculumque waits dreaming. Until its slumber is disturbed by researchers at University of British Columbia identified the microorganism and unleashed the horror:

UBC researchers have discovered two new symbionts living in the gut of termites, and taken the unusual step of naming them after fictional monsters created by American horror author HP Lovecraft.

The single-cell protists, Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque, help termites digest wood. The researchers decided to name them after monstrous cosmic entities featured in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos as an ode to the sometimes strange and fascinating world of the microbe.

“When we first saw them under the microscope they had this unique motion, it looked almost like an octopus swimming,” says UBC researcher Erick James, lead author of the paper describing the new protists, published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

The octopus-like movements and appearance of both protists reminded James of the horrid Cthulhu and Cthylla, and the little protists were baptized after the two monsters. Cthulhu is often depicted as a giant, octopus-like entity with wings. Cthylla is his daughter, and has a similar appearance.

Here's how Cthulhu macrofasciculumque swims:

Link to Press Release | Paper at PLoS ONE

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