Friday, 1 December 2017

'Hairy' Microbes Named for Rush Members Are Living in the Limelight

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | November 29, 2017 11:07am ET

The cascading 1970s-era locks of musicians in the progressive-rock group Rush recently inspired a team of researchers to lend the rockers' names to a trio of microbes with flowing flagella that resemble the band members' hair.

Unlike the Canadian band, the microbes are found in the guts of termites, where they help the insects digest compounds found in woody plants. They belong to the genus Pseudotrichonympha, which was first identified in 1910 and includes single-celled microbes, called protists, with a single nucleus and copious "hair" in rows over most of the cell body.

The three new microbe species — named for Rush singer and bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart — are Pseudotrichonympha leeiP. lifesoni and P. pearti, and were found in two species of termites from North America and Australia, according to a new study.

Patrick Keeling, the study's lead author and a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia — and a Canadian — had recommended that one of his co-authors listen to Rush as an example of "good Canadian music," Keeling said in a statement. When the team described the microbes, which were covered with long flagella, there were inevitable comparisons to photos of the long-haired Rush members on the cover of their album "2112," released in 1976. 

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