Song about mitochondria

Dave sez, "Continuing on with my summer goal to periodically write songs about scientific terms, I bring to you what I'm assuming is the only song ever about mitochondria, and quite likely the only song ever to attempt to rhyme 'endosymbiotically' with 'maternally'. Altogether on the chorus now, 'Mitochondria... Mitochondria... Mitochondria... Mitochondria...'"

Quite possibly the only song dedicated to mitochondria, ever! (Thanks, Dave!)


  1. On the subject of songs about or titled after cellular structures, you can’t leave out Phish and “Golgi Apparatus.”

  2. Erm… Did he do a Google search for “mitochondria song?” I see at least four others. That’s not to say they’re any good though.

    Somehow I got a hold of a whole bunch of science songs from the 60s and 70s mostly by Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans, and Marais & Miranda. They’re all pretty silly and become pretty annoying — you wouldn’t want your child to play them on repeat — but they’re well-produced, and I had great fun creating mash-up remixes with them.

  3. Arguably every song in Parasite Eve was about mitochondria in some way, but they were all instrumentals, so maybe they don’t count here?

  4. #2, SamSam:

    Somehow I got a hold of a whole bunch of science songs from the 60s and 70s mostly by Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans

    The mere mention of that means that I am now going to have

    “the sun is a mass
    of incandescent gas
    a gigantic nuclear furnace
    where hydrogen is built into helium
    at a temperature of millions of degrees”

    stuck in my head all weekend.

    (…find them all here.)

  5. I know a song that’s sort of about mitochondria. Viz, I can sing Krebs’ Cycle to the tune of Waltzing Matilda, which I learned ten years ago for an exam, and hasn’t left yet.

    “Once a jolly pyruvate
    enters the matrix
    of a mitochondrion, so they say,
    a decarboxylating complex dehydrogenase
    turns pyruvate to acetyl coA…”

    (Apologies for errors, it’s entirely from memory.)

  6. The only good thing (or at least, the Best thing) to come out of the new Star Wars stuff was Weird Al’s “The Saga Begins”. The line “midi-chlorians were off the scale” references mitochondria.

    I used to listen to the science songs as a kid.
    They Might Be Giants cover “Why Does the Sun Shine” which is a preferable permutation of that song to have in your head.

  7. “Arguably every song in Parasite Eve was about mitochondria in some way, but they were all instrumentals, so maybe they don’t count here?”

    Dammit, came here to post this. Also, there was a (not nearly as good) sequel to PE.

  8. What is going on? This is yet another post that makes “harmless fun” of a serious issue and thus illicitly legitimizing it. You could at least balance it out by mentioning the enormous damage those parasites have been doing to our cells for the last hundreds of millions of years.

    I bet your cells aren’t singing “Mitochondria… Mitochondria… Mitochondria… Mitochondria…” as the by-products of mitochondrial “metabolism” (the song makes it sound so innocent) wreak havoc in them.

    This will probably start a flamewar, and I’m sorry for that (I like your blog!), but it had to be said.


  9. If you search for “Diver Mitochondria” in iTunes, you’ll find a song by my old band. It is actually about mitochondria, even if it is a little vague.

  10. Along these lines, there’s Biology 2 by Sparks:

    “Hey Lisa, they’re having a big party down at the Allele Pool tonight!”

    “Oooh, let’s do it!”

    You will put your good traits in
    You will put your bad traits out

    Do the Homozygous as you shake them all about

    Unless you’ve got your dominance down in
    your genes you’ll have a kid, invalid
    just like Mendel’s beans
    Oh hold me, you know you are my one and only phenotype
    And together we could have a genotype

    Darwin willed that we would do or die
    Brains and brawn are both in great supply

    Kalikaks a-swimmin’ back and forth will multiply
    You could choose your ancestors and grow just like a weed
    Pick a stud to congeal your blood, and get your earlobes freed

  11. quite likely the only song ever to attempt to rhyme ‘endosymbiotically’ with ‘maternally’.

    …and fail miserably, because those words DON’T RHYME.

  12. Hi,

    This is not specifically about “mitochondria” but it is very science-y by a long-time local Oklahoma City cult band by the name of Love Button. This song is at least 18 years old (they were singing it regualrly when I graduated from OU in 1992) and the band still exists and still performs it regularly.

    This video from 2007 isn’t great, but if you listen carefully you can get the brilliant “Tom Lehrer” style lyrics:

    Take a little hydrogen and put it right beside /
    Methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide /
    Take a little lightning from a passing storm /
    And that’s the way amino acids are born /
    that’s life, that’s what they say /
    that’s how you got your DNA /
    that’s life, you know it’s true /
    from a bubble in a puddle of primordial goo /
    la la!

  13. #9
    Typical. I’m sick of you eukaryotic apologists justifying your heartless enslavement of the Free Mitochondrial Entities. We will not rest until we receive a formal apology translated throughout the endoplastic reticulum and restitution in the form of an agreed sum of giga-moles of ATP is paid to the aggrieved parties.

  14. Very sad that noone has brought up the song Imitosis by Andrew Bird. It is fantastic. Brought to my attention by a mix tape my sister made for me.

  15. And don’t forget the classic Biochemist’s Songbook! Dr. Baum graciously allowed all the songs to be posted as free mp3s here:

    Sing it with me!

    “Mine eyes have seen the glory of respiratory chains
    In every mitochondrion, intrinsic to membranes,
    Functionally organized in complex subdomains
    Where electrons flow along!

    Glory, glory, respiraaaa-tion
    Glory, glory, respiraaaa-tion
    Glory, glory, respiraaaa-tion
    Where electrons flow along!”

    Biochem looks better already!

  16. Darn it. Now I’m going to have the lyric “floating round in a cell, making ATP” in my head looping over and over and over again.

  17. Since it is Boing Boing, here’s the obligatory Ukulele version of “Why the Sun Shines”.

  18. How have we not mentioned Official Nerd Troubador Jonathon Coulton yet? Specifically, ‘That Spells DNA’.

    Also semi-relevant: “Weird Al” Yankovic and ‘I Think I’m a Clone Now’.

  19. I am glad for SamSam that he found four other mitochodria songs–I certainly didn’t, though I did not go thru all million “mitochondrion song” entries.

    I hope that one he found was mine. It should be in the tri-beta database, as it and a poem about spring wildflowers was in the Fall 1971 or Spring 1972 newsletter.

    Well, in any case, here it is again, plus two limericks on the same subject, to “Clementine”.

    …a song of “BioPower” from “New Songs from the Biology Lab”
    published in the BBB [tri-beta] newletter, Fall 1971–Russell Jeffords

    In the body, in the liver there exists a special clone
    ‘Tis the powerhouse of the body, mighty mitochondrion!
    Oh my mighty…
    My striated…
    Cristi’d mitochondrion
    I have seen you thru my micro and fain not leave you ‘lone.

    In the Hunland, thru the Frankland, down the Southland I do roam
    Grabbing skeeters by the liters, and in haste be labward bound.
    Come Aedes
    Soon the Culex
    Then Anopheles to home
    I have put you in my bottle and soon shall hie thee home.

    In the safety of a lab shelf, I will leave you for a spell
    ‘Til your genes are wont to drifting, forming races in your cells.
    Segregation makes the species
    When divergence
    Takes a while
    But I’ll soon be breeding races, their genomes not yet on file.

    Gentle vampire, dermic creature; grind you now we must
    Five swift passes of the pestle and your tissues all be dust
    Dread Aedes
    Cruelest Culex
    By this means we curb your lust
    We dare not to lend more guineas to the saber of your thrust.

    Push the switch now, spin the chamber till the members start their fall
    With 10,000 re-resentatives, our machines must heed the call.
    Turgid mitos
    Flaccid mitos
    Be you young or be you old
    You must join precipitation, and return then to the fold.

    In genetics rests a theory, engraved fitness of the race
    Hybrid vigor–foremost values of the par3nts set the pace.
    Give me P/O
    Give me Nitro
    ATPase by the pile
    And I’ll show your mitochondria with a heterotic wile!

    In the body, in the liver, there exists a special home
    For the fuel cell of the body–mighty mitochondrion!
    In the biome
    In the test tube
    In the factory and the home
    Mitochondrial hybrid vigor is the law, and so is shown.


    There once was a crazy bacterium
    Who decided he like the interiorum
    He invaded a cell
    And adjusted quite well
    To becoming the new–mitochondrion.

    There once was an algae blue-green
    Who by enemies wished not to be seen
    So within the cell she hid
    And a billion years abid
    Having changed to a chloroplast green.

    [PC disclaimer: sexes may be changed.]

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