You can only name new species after the discoverer of the species so many times before it gets boring. The University of British Columbia (UBC) must’ve realized this notion, and when they discovered two new octopus-like mircoorganisms, the research team named them after H.P. Lovecraft’s immortal creation, Cthulhu.
The microorganisms, now officially named Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque, were discovered to have an octopus-like movement when observed under a microscope. The appearance and unique movement of the two microorganisms reminded UBC researcher Erick James — familiar with Lovecraftian lore — of Cthulhu and his daughter, so he graced them with the two monikers. Both organisms are protists, which are microorganisms with complex cell structures contained inside a membrane.
Considering the original Cthulhu and Cthylla’s massive size, perhaps ironically, the two protists are actually quite small compared to other protists. While other protists measure in at around 50 to 150 microns, the two Lovecraftian protists only range from about 10 to 20 microns. These two protists live inside the intestines of termites, but rather than causing diseases, they have a symbiotic relationship.
Just recently, a parasitic wasp species was also given a fun name – Cystomastacoides kiddo — named after Uma Thurman’s character from the Kill Bill movies, Beatrix Kiddo. So, science hasn’t always been stuffy about naming new discoveries, but it’s nice to see that it’s branching out into popular culture — or better yet, with these two new protists, geek culture. Now if we can only get some researchers to name a new organism after Geek.com.