Tuesday, September 11, 2018

10 Animals Named After The Harry Potter Series

Animals Named After Harry Potter Books
J.K. Rowling's wizarding world is full of wonderfully imaginative names. So much so that researchers and explorers around the world have named their very own discoveries after bewitched objects, dangerous spells, and loved (or loved to hate) characters. Did you know that some wasps like the prudent death eater Lucius Malfoy don't sting? Or that a real narwhal tusk shared the same name as a Minister for Magic?  From spiders to dinosaurs, and everything in-between, here are ten animals that were named after the magical world of Harry Potter. This post contains photos of creepy crawlies - please consider this a warning!

Spiders Harry Potter Name
Photo Getty Images / Warner Bros Pictures

Sorting Hat Spider

Every new student enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry must face the Sorting Hat, a bewitched object that peers into pupils’ minds to sort them into different houses. Harry Potter, and many of his allies throughout the series, are sorted into Gryffindor - the house known for their members' bravery, nerve, and chivalry. Combining the Hogwarts house Gryffindor and the Sorting Hat, a group of researchers in Mumbai named their discovery of a spider the “Eriovixia gryffindori”. The brown spider, measuring at 7mm in length, takes the shape of the enchanted Sorting Hat with a curved hat-like tip. The insect also uses its body to camouflage itself from predators.

New Zealand Wasp Harry Potter Name
Photo / Tom Saunders / Warner Bros Pictures

New Zealand Wasp

Some insects like the parasitoid wasp get a bad rap from the negative reputation of their sharp stingers. Reminding University of Auckland researcher Tom Saunders of the maligned Harry Potter character Lucius Malfoy, he named a species of a New Zealand wasp after him: the “Lusius Malfoyi”. Malfoy is known for his allegiance to Lord Voldemort and his ignorant beliefs towards wizards who were not of pureblood relations. Even though he was later pardoned for his involvement with Voldemort after defecting, Lucius is still considered a villain in many fans' minds. Taking a page from Malfoy’s book, people usually consider wasps like the Lusius malfoyi as harmful to our way of life, despite this species’ inability to sting and helping to control the pest population. Both misunderstood in their own right, Saunders used the fictional bad guy in an attempt to redeem the wasp’s poor public image.

Crab Severus Snape Name
Photo /  Jose C.E. Mendoza and Peter K.L. Ng / Warner Bros Pictures

Severus Crab

Inspired by one of the saga’s most controversial characters, a new species of crab was named after Severus Snape in 2014. Throughout the books, the Slytherin professor earned a difficult reputation from his harsh attitude towards Harry Potter and his peers. By the end of the saga, it was revealed Snape was a spy and collected knowledge that helped Harry defeat Lord Voldemort. Dubbed “HarryPlax severus”, the crustacean was discovered in Guam by collector Harry Conley but remained a secret for over twenty years. In a research paper by Jose C.E. Mendoza and Peter K.L. Ng in 2017, the crab received this name because of the long process it took for the specimen to be collected, and to serve as a tribute to a misunderstood character who kept some of the most important secrets in wizarding history.

Spiders Harry Potter Name
Photo / Zootaxa 2017 Magnolia Press / Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Wolf Spider

This insect might change the minds of people who suffer from arachnophobia – a fear of spiders. In Rowling’s second installment Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, one spider Aragog plays a major role in Harry discovering a piece of Voldemort’s complicated past. When students are attacked into a cationic state at Hogwarts, the school’s groundskeeper Hagrid protects his eight-legged friend who is wrongly accused of the crime Voldemort committed and shelters him in the Forbidden Forest. In wanting to find out the truth from Aragog himself, Harry descends into the forest with his friend Ron Weasley, who suffers from arachnophobia. Aragog’s anatomy was inspired by a wolf spider for the films, so entomologist Alireza Naderi with taxonomist Anton Nadolny and co-researcher Alireza Zamani thought “Lycosa aragogi” was a perfect fit. Both spiders share stunning similarities such as a charismatic face and a maternal nature to care for their offspring.

Lizard Harry Potter Name
Photo / Katharine Whiteside / Warner Bros Pictures

Gloucester Lizard

Characters from Harry Potter have been a major source of inspiration for researchers, but this Gloucester lizard actually takes the name of a lethal spell – sectumsempra. In the sixth installment Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry comes into possession of an old textbook filled with original spells created by an unknown wizard known as the Half-Blood Prince. Unaware of the effects sectumsempra causes, Potter uses it against his long-time Slytherin rival Draco Malfoy, severely slicing his body before he is rescued by Severus Snape, the real Half-Blood Prince. This Gloucester lizard might look harmless at four inches long, but its name “Clevosaurus sectumsemper” is not without reason: the reptile’s teeth self-sharpens with every bite of its prey.  If the scene in the book and adaptation is any indication of how lethal the spell is, one can only imagine the pain this lizard’s victims must feel.

Dinosaur Harry Potter Name
Photo / The Children's Museum of Indianapolis / Warner Bros Pictures


The biggest creature on this list is an exciting legend worthy of its own saga. It all began when three friends were fossil hunting in South Dakota and graciously donated their mysterious findings to The Children's Museum of Indianapolis in 2004. After a two year process of study and cleaning, paleontologists Bob Bakker and Robert Sullivan believed the trio had discovered a new species of dinosaur and named it “Dracorex hogwartsia”.The dragonesque creature’s name was a combination of Latin terms which roughly translated to the Dragon King of Hogwarts. The dinosaur’s remains were temporarily on display at the museum, and even received a letter by J.K. Rowling expressing her enthusiasm. In 2009, however, another paleontologist Jack Horner dethroned the Dracorex hogwartsia, after discovering its bones had a similar structure to another dinosaur. The Dracorex hogwartsia lost its title and was re-declared as a previously classified juvenile Pachycephalosaurus.

Cockroach Wasp Harry Potter Name
Photo / Ohl et al / Warner Bros Pictures

Cockroach Wasp

Unlike some wasp’s misleading reputation of stinging, the same cannot be said for this species. With physical similarities of an ant, the cockroach wasp might look like a harmless insect, but the wasp injects toxic venom that manipulates behavior and turns cockroaches into zombies. While there is nothing innocent about a dementor’s grim appearance in the Harry Potter series, their manipulation inspired the cockroach wasp’s new name “Ampulex dementor”. At their “best”, dementors surround fictional characters and deplete their happy memories and positive energy out of them, and at their most lethal, dementors suck the life out of their targets. Unlike most discoveries on this list that were named by the researchers, the Ampulex dementor was chosen by visitors from a preselected sample at a museum event around Berlin in 2012. No doubt, the winner’s connection to our beloved series was a source of inspiration for museum-goers.

Stink Bug Harry Potter Name
Photo / NDSU / Warner Bros Pictures

Stink Bug

Hailing from Chile and difficult to be seen by humans, this new member of the stink bug family is a perfect match for one of Rowling’s mythical creatures. In 2014, NDSU doctoral student Eduardo Faundez and David Rider, professor in the School of Natural Resource Sciences, discovered a new genus and species of Pentatomidae at the Smithsonian Institute. Recorded in their dissertation, the insect was named “Thestral incognitus”. In the books, thestrals are rare winged horses with skeletal structures, and can only be seen by characters who have witnessed death and are coming to terms with their experiences. While there is nothing overtly morbid about thestrals, the two animals share physical similarities such as their bone-ridge structure and calluses.

Harry Potter Narwhal Auction
Photo Biodivlibrary / Warner Bros Pictures


Unlike most entries on this list, a part of this whale was associated with the series before the books ever became a worldwide phenomenon. In 2013, an ivory horned tusk was sold at auction for £36,000. But this was not just any normal tusk. Engraved into its ivory was the name Cornelius Fudge. History and literature ended up colliding as the original owner Cornelius Fudge was a sailor from 1881 who bared the same name as the Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge who appears throughout Rowling’s series. The tusk's owner John Jeffries wrote the author, questioning if she had come across the tusk for research and became a source of inspiration. Rowling responded the name was her own idea but hearing it as someone's real name was an unbelievable coincidence. Given that narwhals are considered a mythical creature in its own right, the discovery truly fits in with the Harry Potter legacy even if the naming was incidental.

Monkey Named After Voldemort
Photo / BBC UK / Warner Bros Pictures


The inspiration to name animals from Harry Potter is not just limited to insects and underwater creatures. This primate earned its nickname because of her uncanny appearance to a character from the film franchise. In 2016, a primate was born at Paignton Zoo in Devon, London via C-section. During her development from birth to a young ape, zookeepers could not help but notice its striking resemblance to Lord Voldemort. It is not difficult to see the unbelievable similarities between the two of them. Portrayed by actor Ralph Fiennes in the films, the Dark Lord’s bald head, beady eyes, and absent nose are shared by the monkey’s black features around its eyes and tiny nostrils standing out against the white fur. Though the monkey’s fur would grow out and shield her connection to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, this king colobus monkey became a viral sensation and was dubbed by the internet as Voldemonkey.

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