Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cthulhu Among Us

Okay, we all knew it was bound to happen sooner or later: some scientist or other would eventually delve too deeply into the mysteries of nature and pull back the veil covering mighty Cthulhu.  It has finally happened, and the Great Old One is a whopping 10 microns in size.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have recently described two new genera of symbiotic protists found living in the gut of termites and have named them after two creatures from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos: Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque.  

Cthulhu macrofasciculumque

Cthulhu is, of course, Lovecraft's iconic monster, from his classic 1926 short story, The Call of Cthulhu, while the lesser known Cthylla, daughter of Cthulhu, is a creation of author Brian Lumley, and is first mentioned in his 1975 novel, The Transition of Titus Crow.

While the real-life Cthulhu may not be as intimidating as the colossal monstrosity that slumbers in the sunken city of R'lyeh it is a testiment to the pervasive influence of Lovecraft in contemporary society.  While the author died in poverty and relative obscurity his stories influenced later generations of writers so that his creations have now been embraced by popular culture.

If you wish to read the full description of Cthulhu and Cthylla the article, published in the journal PLOS ONE (though, I'm suspicious of any journal so sloppy as to capitalize both the genus and species names in the binomen): Cthulhu Macrofasciculumque n. g., n. sp. and Cthylla Microfasciculumque n. g., n. sp., a Newly Identified Lineage of Parabasalian Termite Symbionts