The worlds of literature and science often collide, and in recent years none more so than in naming interesting, exotic, and mostly tiny beasties after characters from JK Rowling's beloved Harry Potter series.
Now, researchers in New Zealand have named a new species of wasp after one of Potter’s nemeses, and Rowling's best-dressed villain, Lucius Malfoy.
Was the newest member of the Lusius genus, Lusius malfoyi, named after the eponymous character for his lustrous long blond locks, or his famously fabulous sneer? Nope, the researchers named it after the villain’s dubious redemption arc.
(For those not familiar with all things Harry P, here’s a quick run-down: Lucius Malfoy, father of Harry’s hated classmate Draco, spends the entire series being a snarky villain, only to run away with his son at the end, thus avoiding death, responsibility, and repercussions for his previous actions.)
"I used the name Lusius malfoyi because Malfoy is a character in the books with a bad reputation who is ultimately redeemed and I'm trying to redeem the reputation of our native wasps," Tom Saunders, its discoverer, explained to the New Zealand Herald.
Which does actually make sense when you learn more about the newly discovered member of the Lusius genus, described for the first time by Saunders in the journal New Zealand Entomologist, despite how you may feel about Malfoy's "redemption".
New Zealand has plenty of endemic wasp species – around 3,000 at last estimates – but it is thought that around a third of them are still unknown to science. To help garner interest in this particular native wasp, Saunders named it after a character who wasn't entirely bad, he just wasn't entirely good either.
L. malfoyi may not be a stinging member of the wasp brethren, and as a native species, it's good for biodiversity, so Saunders is doing his bit to redeem wasps in the eyes of those who aren't so sure.
“I want to redeem the reputation of wasps, because at the moment people have a negative association of them, and they have bad memories from childhood of being stung," Saunders told The Guardian. "I want people to understand that only a tiny fraction of them are harmful to people and the vast majority are neutral.”
Well, we guess Lucius kind of came good in the end so we'll ignore the fact that this wasp reproduces by injecting its larvae into living caterpillars, which then feed on their hosts until they die, and give it the benefit of the doubt – for now.