A charismatic new species of green pit viper discovered during an expedition in India has been named for Salazar Slytherin, the fictitious wizard and co-founder of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series who was able to speak with serpents through Parseltongue.
Trimeresurus Salazar is found in the eastern parts of the Himalayan range at an elevation of around 170 meters (558 feet). A unique orange, reddish stripe running from the lower part of the eye to the back of the head in males sets the species apart from other known green pit vipers and is now described in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.
The kiwi-green serpent is certainly not the first organism to be named after a character from British author JK Rowling’s series and joins a long list of some of the planet’s creepiest, crawliest critters to be named from the wizarding world. Lusius malfoyi, for example, is a New Zealand insect named for "redeemed" antagonist Lucius Malfoy to show that not all wasps are bad – but don’t get it confused with Ampulex dementor, a species of “soul-sucking” cockroach wasp native to Thailand. Eriovixia Gryffindori, a tiny hat-shaped spider named after Godric Gryffindor, another Hogwarts co-founder and original owner of the sorting hat, joins other arachnids – Aname aragog and Lycosa aragogi – two species of spiders named after Hagrid’s giant pet spider. Then there is Harryplax severus, a crab native to Guam that makes its home in coral, named for both Harry Potter and Severus Snape.
During an expedition near the biologically diverse Pakke Tiger Reserve in India, researchers collected two specimens they noticed had slightly different coloration than other species of green pit vipers. Located throughout Southeast Asia, there are at least 48 known species of pit viper in the genus Trimeresurus, which the authors describe as “charismatic and venomous”. Given their “morphologically cryptic” nature, researchers add that the true diversity of the genus is likely underestimated and requires further study to determine its full range.
"Future dedicated surveys conducted across northeastern India will help document biodiversity, which is under threat from numerous development activities that include road widening, agriculture, and hydro-electric projects", shared lead researcher Dr Zeeshan A. Mirza from India’s National Centre for Biological Science of Bangalore in a statement.