Cthulhu, a horrifying octopus-like creature made popular by H.P. Lovecraft, is supposed to be fiction, right?
Well, not anymore. Now that a microscopic protist has been found that bears a resemblance to the multi-tentacled monster. Don’t be too freaked out though; this Cthulhu only resides in the bodies of termites.
Scientific American states that scientists have discovered a species of protist, a single-celled microbe, that lives in the digestive systems of termites and has an elongated teardrop-shaped body and long, spindly tentacles, or flagella. Because almost everyone who studies science are apparently also sci-fi geeks, the scientists named their discovery Cthulhu macrofasciculumque, after the famed Lovecraft god monster.
This protist isn’t the only termite-loving tentacled creature the scientists discovered. They also named another protist found in a different breed of termite and named it Cthylla microfasciculumque, which they nicknamed the “daughter of Cthulhu.” Both protist types feed on the wood cellulose, thus their comfy homes inside host termites.
The scientists wrote about their newfound protist friends in the scientific journal PLoS ONE and also filmed the Cthulhu macrofasciculumque doing its everyday protist thing, which mostly looks like swimming around in whatever fluid it exists in. The protist isn’t harmful to humans – we don’t (knowingly) eat wood cellulose, after all – but the Cthulhu protist is still a little creepy looking under the microscope. It’s the squiggly tentacles that do it. For the creep factor alone, it earns its name. But perhaps you won’t be as weirded out by it; take a look at it for yourselves.
There you have it. Science at work.
What do you think about the real life Cthulhu and its daughter? What other type of fictional animal would you like for scientists to find? (Here’s hoping they get the Loch Ness Monster!) Write about your favorite could-be-real monster in the comments section below.
Image: Erick R. James, Noriko Okamoto, Fabien Burki,
Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, Patrick J. Keeling