The legendary Harrison Ford has had yet another newly discovered species named after him. This time, it’s a snake that was found in Peru’s Andes mountains. Researchers who made the discovery decided to call them Tachymenoides harrisonfordi.
Researchers describe the snake as slender and measures 16 inches long. Their coloring is a pale yellowish-brown with scattered black blotches, and a black belly with a vertical streak over its copper-colored eye. Making it so the Tachymenoides harrisonfordi has the perfect camouflage for its surrounding environment.
The animals discovery was made in a joint effort by researchers from Peru and the United States. They turned up one male of the species while it was sunbathing in Otishi National Park, in May 2022. But the report on the newly discovered species wasn’t published until August 15th in Salamandra, a scientific journal. The team that found the snake decided to name it after Ford in honor of his decades-long commitment to environmental advocacy.
Ford has been linked to these legless cuties ever since he uttered the phrase “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?” in Steven Spielberg’s 1984 blockbuster “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” While his (almost) fearless character Indiana Jones may not like them, the actor is a huge conservationist. He is the vice chair of Conservation International, an organization that disseminated the news, among other eco-conscious work. And he already has a specie of ant (Pheidole harrisonfordi) and a spider (Calponia harrisonfordi), named after him.
“These scientists keep naming critters after me, but it’s always the ones that terrify children. I don’t understand. I spend my free time cross-stitching. I sing lullabies to my basil plants, so they won’t fear the night,” Ford said. “In all seriousness, this discovery is humbling. It’s a reminder that there’s still so much to learn about our wild world — and that humans are one small part of an impossibly vast biosphere. On this planet, all fates are intertwined, and right now, one million species are teetering on the edge of oblivion. We have an existential mandate to mend our broken relationship with nature and protect the places that sustain life.”
Conservation International experts published a study last year that found one-fifth of the world’s reptiles are threatened with extinction. “Too often, reptile conservation can be overlooked — most people likely don’t find snakes as cute as a fluffy panda cub, but their role in the world’s ecosystems is just as important,” explained Neil Cox, manager of the Conservation International-IUCN biodiversity assessment unit. Cox also authored the 2022 Global Reptile Assessment study. “This discovery helps us better understand how snake species exist and survive in the world, and I hope that its fun name will help draw attention to the threat of extinction facing reptiles globally.”
Edgar Lehr, a member of the research team and a professor of biology at Illinois Wesleyan University is “honored” Ford accepted the name. “For a biologist, describing a new species and making it public with its new name is one of the most vital activities during the biodiversity crisis,” Lehr said. “We hope the new snake will create awareness about the importance of biological fieldwork that intends to discover the unknown — often an adventurous and expensive process requiring more financial support from funding agencies. Only organisms that are known can be protected.”