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Meet the New Species of Snake Named After Salazar Slytherin of the Harry Potter Franchise

Perhaps the fictional Hogwarts founder would have appreciated the honor

Trimeresurus salazar, or Salazar’s pit viper, named for the Harry Potter character Salazar Slytherin (Mirza et al., Zoosystematics and Evolution, 2020)

In dreaming up the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling almost certainly drew inspiration from snakes to name the character of Salazar Slytherin, one of the magical school’s four founders and the eponym of Slytherin house.

Now, the tables have turned, with scientists in India lending the fictional name to a new species of snake: Trimeresurus salazar, or Salazar’s pit viper, reports Rahul Karmakar for The Hindu.

The newest member of the genus Trimeresurus Lacépède, which includes at least 48 species of pit viper distributed across east and southeast Asia, the snake is the fifth reptile discovered by scientists in India’s northern state of Arunachal Pradesh in the past year or so, joining three other snakes and a tortoise also native to the region. A paper published in the April issue of Zoosystematics and Evolution describes the find, made by a team of researchers led by Zeeshan Mirza, a biologist at India’s National Centre for Biological Sciences.

(Mirza et al., Zoosystematics and Evolution, 2020)

As Kiona N. Smith reports for Forbes, Trimeresurus snakes—described by the researchers as “charismatic, venomous serpents”—can be especially tough to tell apart because they look so much alike. But Salazar’s pit viper seems to be set apart from the rest by an orange-reddish stripe found on the sides of the heads of males, according to Annie Lord at the Independent.

In the Harry Potter universe, the character Salazar Slytherin was an infamous Parselmouth—an individual well-versed in the dialect of serpents, called Parseltongue. Fittingly, the sigil of the Hogwarts house named after him was styled with a snake in shades of green and silver; according to legend, Slytherin favored students who were cunning, ambitious, resourceful and—controversially—descended from exclusively magical lineages, or “pure-blooded.”

(Mirza et al., Zoosystematics and Evolution, 2020)

Salazar’s pit viper now joins a small, exclusive club of animals whose species names contain homages to the Harry Potter franchise, according to Forbes. Among them are several spiders dubbed in honor of Aragog, a gargantuan arachnid who made an appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, as well as Dracorex hogwartsia, a dinosaur whose name literally translates to “Dragon King of Hogwarts.”

About Katherine J. Wu
Katherine J. Wu

Katherine J. Wu is a Boston-based science journalist and Story Collider senior producer whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Undark magazine, Popular Science and more. She holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunobiology from Harvard University, and was Smithsonian magazine's 2018 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.

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