Images: Squiggly Microbes Named for Lovecraft Monsters

Newfound Microbes

(Image credit: PLOS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058509.g003)

Scientists have discovered two new species of strange-looking microbes that live in the bellies of termites, and they've named the creatures Cthulhu and Cthylla.

Monstrous Inspiration

(Image credit: Cthulhu Tales by BOOM! Studios, © 2011)

Cthulhu is a fictional creature in American author H.P. Lovecraft's pantheon of horrible monsters.

Cthulhu Loose Again!

(Image credit: SelfMadeHero)

Lovecraft described the ocean-dwelling creature as vaguely anthropomorphic, but with an octopus-like head, a face full of feelers, and a scaly, rubbery, bloated body with claws and narrow wings.


(Image credit: University of British Columbia)

While Cthulhu macrofasciculumque isn't as frightening as Lovecraft's Cthulhu, it does look like it has a big tuft of tentacles.


(Image credit: PLOS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058509.g004)

This image shows Cthylla microfasciculumque, another new microbe species found in termite guts. With just five flagella, it's smaller than Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and is named after Cthylla, the secret daughter of Cthulhu, generally portrayed as a winged cephalopod.

Mini-Cthylla On The Move

(Image credit: PLOS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058509.s002)

This is a screenshot from a video clip showing how the mini-Cthylla moves. When researchers first saw these new microbe species under a microscope, they were struck by its strange movements that almost resembled an octopus swimming.

Gut Symbionts

(Image credit: PLOS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058509.s001)

Microbes like the mini-Cthulhu shown here help termites turn wood into digestible sugar, which is why the pests are so good at eating through walls.

Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.