Cthulhu lives! (in the hindgut of a termite, no less)

The big news taxonomic nomenclature is that Cthulhu has been found in the guts of a termite, rather than in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as previously reported. Or, to be more precise, that two new genera have been reported and named after Cthulhu and his daughter Cthylla. The organisms were reported by Erick R. James, et al., in the online journal PLoS One in a paper entitled “Cthulhu Macrofasciculumque n. g., n. sp. and Cthylla Microfasciculumque n. g., n. sp., a Newly Identified Lineage of Parabasalian Termite Symbionts“. The type species of these genera are flagellates that inhabit the guts of two termite species. The article kindly includes images of the suitably be-tentacled organisms, and is worth taking a gander at. The authors also include etymological notes on the generic names, which is what is of the most interest to me. For Cthulhu, they write:

The name is based on the fictional many tentacled, cephalopod-headed demon found in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, specifically The Call of Cthulhu. The tentacle-headed appearance given by the coordinated beat pattern of the anterior flagellar bundle of Cthulhu cells is reminiscent of this demon. The name is supposedly impossible to pronounce as it comes from an alien language, but currently it is most often pronounced “ke-thoo-loo”.

Of Cthylla, who I have to admit I hadn’t encountered prior to this*, they write:

The name is based on the fictional Cthylla (often pronounced ke-thil-a), who was the secret daughter of Cthulhu in later writing inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Though never described, Cthylla is generally portrayed as a winged cephalophod. It is here named as a smaller and simpler relative of the parabasalian genus Cthulhu.

Phonetically-speaking, I’d have written “kuh” instead of “ke” for the initial syllable, but I have to assume they meant it to represent a schwa. I’m guessing that none of the peer reviewers were SF fans or phoneticians. The article also includes the completely wonderful neologism “cthulhumonad” (no Google hits at all as of this writing). The term is undefined, but since “monad” is another term for a single-cellular organism, I assume that “cthulhumonad” just means a single-cellular organism of the Cthulhu-type. But considering that in some gnostic thought, the Monad is the supreme being, I find this particular coinage to be simply delightful.

*Cthylla, it turns out, was created by Brian Lumley in his Lovecraftian series Titus Crow, and, as is the way of things in the Cthulhu Mythos, subsequently picked up by other writers.

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