"A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful." - H.P. Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu"
You know Cthulhu. Maybe you've never read a single piece of Lovecraft's fiction, but you know his most famous creation: that green, winged and tentacled monstrosity known as Cthulhu -- an alien creature so old and deathless that humans have no choice but to behold it as a god.
It is, of course, a work of fiction. But fictional monstrosities often worm their way into our understanding of real-life biology -- especially when it comes to naming them. Monster-loving researchers have already given us Cyclops bicuspidatus and Godzillius robustus. Now we have Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque.
In 2013, a team of University of British Columbia researchers discovered two new symbiotic organisms living in the gut of termites. These tiny creatures -- no more than 10 to 20 microns in length -- help the termite digest wood. The Cthulhu moniker comes into play because the organism boasts a head of tentacle-like flagella and moves in a manner reminiscent of an octopus.
Their findings were published in the science journal PLOS ONE.
All right, let's take a look at this little elder thing...
It doesn't exactly fill me with cosmic dread, but it's still a pretty nifty little symbiote.