Suckling unnamable ichor as they slither through the viscous, shrieking madness of the intestinal tracts of lunatic termites, a pair of incomprehensibly monstrous single-celled organisms have been named after the creations of the early 20th century science fiction pulp writer, H.P. Lovecraft.
A University of British Columbia press release quotes Erick James, a biologist a whose impious explorations into the forbidden have unwittingly revealed a terrifying vista of dread.
“When we first saw them under the microscope they had this unique motion, it looked almost like an octopus swimming,” said James.
Described in the current edition of the scientific journal PLOS ONE, Cthulhu macrofasciculumque is named for Cthulhu, the towering cosmic entity with an octopus head and dragon wings who first appeared in Lovecraft's 1926 short story, "The Call of Cthulhu." The microbe's length is about a fifth of the width of a human hair – an unutterably degenerate human hair – and it has up to 20 flagella, lash-like protrusions that help it swim. Cthylla microfasciculumque is named for Cthulhu's secret daughter. It is slightly smaller, with only five flagella.
In addition to saturating the collective unconscious of mankind with the latent madness of unfathomable cosmic eons, both organisms play an important role in breaking down wood cellulose in the hindgut of the Reticulitermes virginicus termite.
The gut of a termite is a veritable Cyclopean nightmare corpse-city seething with microorganisms, their squirming, tentacle-like flails a kaleidoscope of polypous perversion.
“The huge diversity of microbial organisms is a completely untapped resource,” said James in the oozing, fetid press release. “Studying protists can tell us about the evolution of organisms. Some protists cause diseases, but others live in symbiotic relationships, like these flagellates in the intestines of termites.”
Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque are not the only otherworldly horrors with Lovecraftian names. First described in 1994, the Pimoa cthulhu spider is native to redwood forests in Mendocino and Sonoma counties in California, where it waits until stars are ready so that it may rise again and bring the Earth beneath its terrible sway.