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12 animal species names inspired by Harry Potter

If you are a fan of the Harry Potter series, then you might want to know about the these 12 species named after J.K Rowling’s famous works:

1.Ampulex dementor

Native to Thailand, this species of cockroach wasp was first described in 2014 by Michael Ohl of the Museum fur Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany.

This insect has an unusual behaviour towards cockroaches. As it stings its prey, it releases a toxin into the victim’s neural nodes.

The toxin then blocks the cockroach’s octopamine receptor, which is an important neurotransmitter and hormone.

This leaves the cockroach alive but docile and with impaired motility.

By prodding with its antenna, the predator then escorts its victim into the wasp’s nest, where it can be dispatched more easily.

After its discovery, the researchers decided to let the museum visitors to vote for the name.

Since the wasp’s terrifying hunting method was similar to the soul sucking dementors from the Harry Potter series, it was then given the name Ampulex dementor.

Other name options were Ampulex bicolor, Ampulex mon and Ampulex plagiator.

Ampulex dementor.
Bernard Schurian / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

2.Eriovixia gryffindori

Did you know that The Sorting Hat originally belonged to Godric Gryffindor, one of the four founders of Hogwarts?

When they still alive, the four founders used to hand-pick the students for their houses.

Then they realised that someone else would have to do it after they died, so Gryffindor took off his hat, enchanted it and it became The Sorting Hat.

Javed Ahmad, Rajashree Khalap and Sumukha Javagal discovered Eriovixia gryffindori in 2015 in the Indian state of Karnataka.

They thought the spider resembled the Sorting Hat of the Harry Potter series so they named it after Gryffindor.

3.Graphorn sp.

A graphorn is a large and hump-backed creature with greyish-purple in the Harry Potter universe. It has two golden horns and can repel most spells.

In the real world, Graphorn is a genus of shield bug found in Argentina.

4.Harryplax severus

Harryplax severus is a crab native to Guam, where it is found in offshore coral rubble.

It was first collected in 1998 but only officially described in 2017.

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The genus name honours Harry T. Conley, as well as the literary character Harry Potter, an allusion to Conley’s uncanny ability to collect rare and interesting creatures as if by magic.

As for the species’ name, it honours Professor Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.

National University of Singapore biologists Jose Medoza and Peter Ng stated that Snape kept “One of the most important secrets in the story, just like the present new species which has eluded discovery until now, nearly 20 years after it was first collected.”

Jose C.E. Mendoza and Peter K.L. Ng / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

5.Lusius malfoyi

Tom Saunders, the entomologist who described a New Zealand parasitoid wasp as part of his masters study at Auckland University had the perfect to reason to name it Lusius malfoyi.

He told The Guardian back in 2017, “The dominant narrative is wasps are bad and they sting people and they are awful. But if you look at the diversity of wasps around the world you’ll find only a tiny fraction, less than 1% are pests and problems. And the vast majority of them play a fairly critical roles in the ecosystems they live in.”

In the Harry Potter series, Lucius Malfoy is portrayed as a slimy villain. However in the final book, he redeemed himself by abandoning Voldemort at the Battle of Hogwarts.

Hence, Saunders wanted to redeem the reputation of wasps and hope that people understand that only a tiny fraction of them are harmful.

Taken by Tom Saunders during masters research supervised by Darren Ward, based at Landcare Research, Auckland, New Zealand. https://tomsaunders.co.nz
Tom Saunders & Darren Ward / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

6.Aname aragog

Hagrid, the gamekeeper and Keeper of Keys and Grounds of Hogwarts acquired Aragog as an egg in 1942.

He hid Aragod in a cupboard until Tom Riddle aka Voldemort exposed its existence. Hagrid then managed to release it into the forest where Aragog spent the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, Aname aragog is a species of trapdoor spider in the family Nemesiidae. A trapdoor spider is a common name for spiders that create burrows with a silk-hinged trapdoor to help them ambush their prey.

This species is found in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

7.Lycosa aragogi

Aname aragog is not the only species named after Aragog. When researchers at the University of Tehran found a new species of wolf spider, they realised it has undeniable similarities to Aragog.

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Like the character Aragog, the Lycosa aragogi spider is an aggressive hunter.

These insects do not build webs but instead hunt at night, feeding small insects such as crickets.

Thankfully, they are not toxic or large enough to harm a human.

On top of that, the scientists found that the spider has strong maternal instinct like Aragog.

In the Harry Potter series, Aragog allows her children to attack Potter and Ron Weasly in the Forbidden Forests in order for her children to eat.

8.Ochyrocera aragogue

Researchers Antonio Brescovit, Igor Cizauskas and Leandro Mota from Instituto Butantan, Sao Paula found not one but seven new species of spiders a couple of years ago.

They decided to name one of them Ochyrocera aragogue after Aragog.

Other six spiders were Ochyrocera varys, Ochyrocera atlachnacha, Ochyrocera laracna, Ochyrocera charlotte, Ochyrocera ungoliant and Ochyrocera misspider.

Two of the species were named after characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. Ochyrocera laracna is named after the giant spider Laracna who attacks Frodo and Sam on their way to Mordor while Ochyrocera ungoliant is named after Laracna’s mother Ungoliant.

Ochyrocera varys is befittingly named after Lord Varys from the Game of Thrones series. Lord Varys is nicknamed The Spider in the series by George R. Martin.

9.Clevosaurus sectumsemper

Snape invents the curse “sectumsempra” while studying at Hogwarts. Potter then discovers it inside Snape’s old book and used it against Draco Malfoy. The curse acts on its victim like an invisible sword.

When University of Bristol student Catherine Klein discovered a 205-million-year-old reptile in a drover of fossils, she decided to give a nod the curse.

The bones showed enough differences from known clevosaurs to call it a new species.

It was concluded that there was a possibility that the animals were fighting each other due to limited food source. Or perhaps they preyed on each other and their bones were broken.

The new species was able to self-sharpen its blade-like teeth with each cut. Thus, the species name sectumsemper was chosen in which also means ‘always cut’.

10.Dracorex hogwartsia

This new species of dinosaur was first discovered in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota by three inexperienced paleontologist. They donated it the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in 2004 for study.

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Then a team of museum scientists officially named the new dinosaur species Dracorex hogwartsia, the “Dragon King of Hogwarts”.

In response to this, Rowling put out a statement saying, “I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small claw mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs.”

She also gave credits to her children who loved dinosaurs for her knowledge on paleontology.

11.Trimeresurus salazar

When a team of researchers from India discovered a new species of green pit vipers, they decided to name the snake after the founder of Slytherin house, Salazar Slytherin.

He was one of the first recorded wizard with Parseltongue, the language of snakes.

A snake is also the symbol of the House of Slytherin.

12.Thestral incognitus

Why do scientists named their species the way they do? New species are often named after a person or places where they were found.

However over the years, there are more new species named after fictional characters such as Harry Potter and Star Wars characters, for instances Polemistus chewbacca and Polemistus yoda.

Eduardo Faundez wrote in Entomology Today pointing out that giving new species curious names is celebrated by some scientists and discouraged by others.

By doing so, however, like naming them after elements in the Harry Potter series, it might get people talking about these new species. Apart from raising awareness on the new addition of biodiversity, it could capture the attention of those in-charge of providing funds to study them.

Faundez himself, along with his colleague found a new genus of shield bug in central Chile.

He explained, “It was found in an area of the country that is pretty well-collected, where we observed thousands of specimens, but only a few of this new species and genus. Something about these bugs made it difficult for people to see them easily, which reminded me of the Thestrals, a breed of winged horses with skeletal bodies from the Harry Potter series. Additionally, our bug has ivory carinae which resemble the skeletal bodies of the Thestrals, which led us to name the bug Thestral incognitus.”

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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