The study authors say they chose the name in a deliberate nod to the popular franchise, which uses snakes as a symbol for House Slytherin, one of the four houses at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The houses were named after the school’s four founders, including Salazar Slytherin, who could speak a snake language called Parseltongue.
Researchers are calling the new snake Trimeresurus salazar, according to their findings published in English (not Parseltongue) in the Zoosystemics and Evolution journal. They say it should commonly be known as Salazar’s pit viper in honour of the character.
“He was a Parselmouth,” the study authors wrote. “That links him to serpents.”
The new snake is one of at least four dozen known species of viper in the world and one of at least 15 in India. Scientists say they knew it was different from other species because of an orange-reddish stripe found on the sides of the male’s head.
Pit vipers from the Trimeresurus genus are venomous. Their bite can deliver a painful but usually non-lethal toxin into the human bloodstream.
In the Harry Potter franchise, Harry narrowly avoids being placed in House Slytherin with several bullies at the beginning of his adventures. He maintains a connection to Slytherin throughout the books, in part because he can also speak the snake language.
One of the other major Slytherin figures in Harry’s life is Voldemort, the main villain with the snake-like face. Voldemort was said to be the heir of Salazar Slytherin.
In other words, you probably wouldn’t want to tangle with anything named Slytherin, be it a fictional wizard or a real-world viper.