Found on the Net: Cthulhu Spotted by University of British Columbia Scientists

Most writers have day jobs, but I’m lucky enough to have a yay job. This week, I worked on a story about a discovery made by the distinguished scientists at the University of British Columbia, where I work. The story? UBC researchers have found Cthulhu. The good news (or is it bad?): He’s tiny.

UBC researchers discovered two new symbionts living in the gut of termites  and named them after fictional creatures out of Lovecraft’s Mythos. Behold the single-cell protists, Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque. They help termites digest wood and, at 10 to 20 microns, they are tiny.

UBC researcher Erick James decided to name the little creatures after monstrous cosmic entities featured in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos because of their appearance and cute swimming pattern. It is also 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.

You can read the UBC press release (Hey, I worked on this!) here and this is the paper describing them in detail.