Salazar’s Pit Viper: Another species named after our shared text.

The trend of naming new species after Harry Potter characters continues.  The latest addition to the Slug Club (which, to my knowledge, has no actual slugs in it yet….  hey, slug researchers, why don’t you find a horned one and name it “Horace?”) is Trimeresurus salazar, a new, bright green pit viper recently discovered in India. Zeeshan Mirza led a team of five self-described Potter fans on an expedition that discovered the magical creature in the Pakke Tiger Reserve in July 2019.  According to the report in The Indian Express:

They almost named the species ‘Nagini’, after Lord Voldemort’s snake but then later decided to “save it for when, and if, they discover a new cobra species since Nagini was a cobra.”

“Childhood experiences largely stay with you,” said Mirza, “When I was growing up, JK Rowling was a big part of my childhood, and perhaps everyone else who has read the book. Now what better way to honour and thank her than naming the species after one of her characters?”

Eriovixia gryffindori

Interestingly, the discoverer’s hat tip to Mr. Slytherin extends to the fantastic beast’s common name, which they hope will be Salazar’s pit viper, not to be confused with the Basilisk, Salazar’s pet viper. This also brings some balance to the Hogwarts’ founders, since Godric Gryffindor had a Sorting Hat-shaped spider named for him in 2016.  I’m waiting for Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw to get their turn.

The snake joins a dinosaur, an extinct lizard, two wasps, two stink bugs, four spiders–the three others are named after Aragog–and an elusive crab in species with Wizarding World-inspired names.  You can read about five of these in my earlier posts: here and here.  If you want to know about the six others I’ve added to my list since 2017, follow the jump.  

The award for most creative name goes to Clevosaurus sectumsemper, an extinct species of lizard whose fossils, held in a drawer since the 1980’s, were identified as a new species by undergraduate student Catherine Klein. The name, after the Dark Magic slashing spell invented by Snape and used unknowingly by Harry on Draco Malfoy, was inspired by the reptile’s self-sharpening teeth. 

Thestral incognitus

Stink bugs are far from most people’s favorite creature, but they can be made slightly more bearable with Harry Potter names. The discoverer of Thestral incognitus, Eduardo Faundez, explained his choice of name in 2014:

“The reason for this special name is because the specimens of this new genus come from localities that have been fairly well collected. Yet, we believe that they are hard to find and not all people can see them, much like Rowling’s creations,” said Faundez, “Additionally, the bugs have some bone-like ridges in their bodies that resemble the skeletal bodies of thestrals.”

Graphorn bicornutus

The second, Graphorn bicornutus, was also a discovery of Mr. Faundez, in 2017.  To date, it is the only beast I know named after one of Newt Scamander’s beloved creatures, not something from the orignal seven book series. The paper explained. “Graphorns are a breed of large hump-backed horned creatures. These are known to have two large golden horns, similar to the humeral spines of this new genus.”

Aname aragog

Lycosa aragogi

While it may seem rather uncreative to have three different spider reseachers name their discoveries after Aragog, it turns out there were different reasons. Harvey et al., who named the first spider Aname aragog after Hagrid’s beloved pet in 2012, did not give a specific reason for doing so in their scientific paper. But Alireza Zamanim, 2017 co-discoverer of Lycosa aragogi was specifically inspired by the wolf-spider depection of Aragog in the movie.

“We found out that there was an extreme similarity between our spider and Aragog as he was depicted in the second film,” Zamani told Live Science in an email. “Since it was also the 20th anniversary of the whole ‘Harry Potter’ series, we thought it might be a good idea and celebration of this wonderful franchise.”

Ochyrocera aragogue

As for the most recent real-life acromantula? Ochyrocera aragogue has a truly fantastic story, as it was one of seven (the most magical number) species of Ochyrocera discovered in Brazilian caves in 2019.  All were named for fictional spiders.  The other six were Ochyrocera varys, a tribute to “The Spider” of The Song of Fire and Ice, Ochyrocera atlachnacha, after Lovecraft’s spider-god, two from Tolkien: Ochyrocera laracna and Ochyrocera ungoliant and two from children’s books: Ochyrocera charlotte and Ochyrocera misspider.  If that isn’t proof that scientists can appreciate the humanities, I don’t know what is.

I do my best to keep a running tab of Harry Potter inspired species, so if you hear of any more, please let me know.  As for me, if I ever discover something big and hairy, I am naming it Cormoran strikus.



  1. DAVID M MARTIN says

    Thank you, Louise. I know we can count on you for proper scientific nomenclature.

    While we’re on the subject of snakes, I’ve noticed a small difference between book 1 and film 1. Specifically, in book 1 the snake that Harry accidentally frees at the zoo is identified on a little sign as “Boa Constrictor, Brazil.” In the film Harry says to the snake “You’re from Burma, aren’t you?” Less than a minute later in the film, when we see Dudley trapped inside the snake’s enclosure, if we stop the film at the right place we can see a sign on the wall behind Dudley that identifies the snake as “Burmese Python.” Why the difference? My guess would be that the Burmese Python enclosure was just the one that the London Zoo could make available to the film crew when they came to shoot.

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