Almost 20 years ago, a researcher and ex-Marine by the name of Harry Conley was studying the coral reef rubble that was surrounding the island of Guam to learn more about the biology in the region.
During his studies, he found what appeared to be a previously unknown species of crab, which was quite tiny; no more than a centimeter in both length and width and had very tiny eyes. Because it lives deep inside of the rubble of coral reefs, Conley had to dig into the rubble from the coral reefs to get to it.
Image Credit: Jose C. E. Mendoza
Unfortunately, Conley never lived to tell the tale, as he passed away in 2002. The specimens he collected were then passed on to fellow biologist Gustav Paulay, who would further express interest in learning more about them. In doing so, he brought them to Peter Ng, a taxonomy expert from the National University of Singapore.
After additional experts had a chance to examine the specimens, it became clear to them that this crab was not only a new species, but it was of a completely new genus too. Even more interesting, when giving it a name the researchers picked quite a peculiar one that seems to have roots derived from the popular Harry Potter movies. The details appear in the journal ZooKeys.
Harryplax severus is the official name of the crab; the first part of the name is derived from Harry Potter himself, as a result of the lead researcher being quite a fan of the movies. The second part of the name has been derived from professor Severus Snape, another main character in the movies.
The study authors reportedly chose Severus for a part of the name due to the movie character’s mysteriousness and for hiding his agenda until the end of the movie series, which matches the persona of the crab quite well because it went almost 20 years before spilling its secrets because of the story behind its original discovery.
For what it’s worth, this isn’t the first time that the Harry Potter movies have inspired the naming of a newly-discovered creature of Earth. A spider was also just discovered and revealed in December of 2016 and was named after Gryffindor after it was determined to look like the Sorting Hat that placed Harry Potter in his chosen group of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.