In a case of life imitating art, paleontologists have discovered the a fossil that resembles Lovecraft's iconic creature.
It appears that H.P. Lovecraft's 1926 fiction short story The Call of Cthulhu wasn't so fictional after all. Recently, scientists discovered a fossil of a sea creature that's 430 million years old, and because of its likeness to the sea creature described in Lovecraft's novel, they decided to name the fossil after it. Now officially known as Sollasina cthulhu, the fossil was formally introduced by a team of biological scientists in a paper published by The Royal Society. As per a 3D reconstruction of the creature created by the team of paleontologists, it has all the features described by Lovecraft, Forbes reports.
The short story writer described his Cthulhu as "a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind." Strangely enough, the new creature has many of the same features. This is mostly because the Sollasina belongs to the ophiocistioidea, a category of now-extinct echinoderms from the Palaeozoic and early Mesozoic eras. The ophiocistioidea are most closely related to modern sea cucumbers. You might recognize these echinoderms: sea cucumbers, sea urchins, crinoids, brittle stars, and starfish all belong to the same class. Similarly, the Sollasina's skin, too, is covered with tiny ossicles comprising calcium carbonate. This covering forms a well-protected but flexible outer shell.
Sollasina, like Cthulhu, has numerous tentacles — 45 to be exact. This is yet another classic feature of echinoderms. Its tentacles branch out from a central body and reminded the team of scientists of "the mass of feelers" that surrounded Cthulhu's mouth in Lovecraft's short story. But as a point of relief, unlike Cthulhu, the Sollasina's tentacles thankfully weren't used to swallow poor human souls. Instead, the tentacles most likely helped the creature walk, or more specifically crawl, around the seabed of ancient Herefordshire. This area is now part of present-day United Kingdom. Additionally, the 45 tentacles may have been utilized to pass food to the creature's mouth, which is found in the very center of its body.
Perhaps it is really no surprise that paleontologists finally discovered something so strikingly similar to Lovecraft's creature Cthulhu. After all, the writer did use real fossils and authentic research in order to develop all the creatures and characters in his stories. This is most clear in Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, a science-fiction/horror story published by him in 1936. In the story, readers go on a journey with geologist William Dyer. Dyer is one of the few remaining survivors of a tough expedition to Antarctica. Told from a first-person perspective, the story suggests that fossil traces of "ancient and monstrous creatures" were discovered. Life really does imitate art, doesn't it?