Here’s one that’s sure to make philosophers groan (or sorcerers, for you Americans). A recently discovered crab species has been somewhat tenuously named in honor of characters from the magical world of Harry Potter.
The crab's official name is Harryplax severus, with the genus Harryplax named after the crab's collector, the late researcher and former marine Harry Conley, who died from a gunshot in 2002, as well as the protagonist in J. K. Rowling’s novels. Conley dug up many specimens in Guam’s coral reef rubble almost 20 years ago.
The latter species part of its name is inspired by the character Severus Snape, who (spoiler warning), “despite being a central character in the series, keeps his background and agenda mysterious until the very end,” the statement announcing the naming said. The authors note this is "just like the present new species, which has eluded discovery until now, nearly 20 years after it was first collected”.
Even though Conley found the specimen long ago, its status as a new species and genus was only realized recently by Dr Peter Ng and Dr Jose Cristopher E. Mendoza from the National University of Singapore.
Jose Christopher E. Mendoza
The crab is tiny, measuring just 7.9 by 5.6 millimeters (0.3 by 0.2 inches), and known only to herald from the island of Guam. It’s found deep in coral rubble or under subtidal rocks, and survives at dark depths with reduced eyes, ones that are not used extensively. Instead, it has antennae to probe the depths, and gets around on long thin legs.
In the statement, Dr Mendoza was said to be a self-confessed “Potterhead”, hence the somewhat unusual moniker. But it’s not the first time Potter has inspired the naming of a new species – Popular Science notes that a dinosaur species was named after Hogwarts in 2006 (Dracorex hogwartsia), a wasp in Thailand was named Ampulex dementor in 2014, and a spider was named Eriovixia gryffindori last year.
A paper describing the finding was published in ZooKeys, but sadly the Potter references end there. You won’t be getting Crabbe and Goyle, ex-shelliarmus, or Albus Dumbleclaw out of us. No siree.