Long-haired termite-gut microbes named for rock band Rush

Meet the world's most rockin' microbes, a shaggy power trio named after the members of prog-rock band Rush.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser

What do Canadian progressive-rock icons Rush have in common with several new species of microbes found in the guts of termites? Long hair and a good sense of rhythm. 

Researchers at the University of British Columbia discovered the microbes, which sport a shaggy mane of flagella (thread-like appendages used for movement). "Many cells have a few flagella, but these little rockers have more than ten thousand very long flagella, giving them flowing hair that even Farrah Fawcett might envy," a news release noted Monday.

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P. pearti shows off its rocker style.

Patrick Keeling

The minuscule microbes, which were found in the guts of termites, move about in a rhythmic dance, which helped prompt the scientists to name the three new species after the individual members of Rush. Rush's most famous songs include the anthemic "Tom Sawyer" and the catchy "Closer to the Heart."

The Pseudotrichonympha species are called P. leei, P. lifesoni and P. pearti after bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. 

The researchers published their findings this week in the journal Scientific Reports. They also released a rocking video showing the microbes getting down to a soundtrack of prog-rock tunes, which may be the first time you've ever been inspired to make the devil horns hand gesture and head-bang while looking at microorganisms. Just go with it.

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