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article imageHarry Potter inspires naming of new crab species

By Tim Sandle     Jan 24, 2017 in Science
A new species of crab has been named after characters from the Harry Potter franchise. In addition part of the name of the crustacean references a famous biologist.
Although human understanding of the different species on the planet advances there remains a lot to learn. One such area are the creatures that reside in coral reefs. Here a researcher, who was formerly a U.S. marine, called Harry Conley devoted considerable time to searching for marine life. Conley was particularly interested in the island of Guam, western Pacific Ocean. Coney not only looked from left to right in his mission he also dug deep, often down to 30 meters through the coral rubble.
Colney passed away twenty years ago; however, his discoveries are still being reviewed and indexed. This quest is being led by Dr. Peter Ng, of the National University of Singapore. Part of this review has identified a new genus and a new species of crab. The species has been named Harryplax severus and there’s quite a bit of meaning to the naming.
Genus is a taxonomic descriptor used in the biological classification of living things. In terms of biological classification ranking, genus is placed above species but below family. In terms of naming the genus name forms the first part of the species name for each species within the genus. So with the new crab, “Harryplax” is the genus and “severus” is the species.
Harry Potter
A scene from the film "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
Courtesy Warner Bros.
The genus name is doubly in honor of Harry Conley and also with reference to J. K. Rowling's fantasy novel series about the boy wizard Harry Potter. The reason for the reference is Coney’s ‘magical’ knack of finding new species. As to the crab's species name, severus, this was also inspired by another 'Harry Potter' character -- Professor Severus Snape. This character keeps a key secret until the end of the book series. With this the Dr. Ng wanted to acknowledge the mystery around naming a new species twenty years after the specimen was recovered.
Alan Rickman played Severus Snape in all eight "Harry Potter" films from 2001 to 2011
Alan Rickman played Severus Snape in all eight "Harry Potter" films from 2001 to 2011
Don Emmert, AFP
With the crab itself, it is very small, less than a centimeter in both length and width. The crab hides way among coral, deep in the water.
In related news, a new species of moth has been named after the U.S. President Donald Trump. The moth carries one interesting similarity with the businessman turned politician.
The new species has been named in the journal Zookeys, with the research paper headed “Harryplax severus, a new genus and species of an unusual coral rubble-inhabiting crab from Guam (Crustacea, Brachyura, Christmaplacidae).”
More about Crabs, Harry potter, Biology, Taxonomy
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