The Harry Potter series was the inspiration for the name of a new stink bug discovered by North Dakota State researchers.
NDSU doctoral student Eduardo Faundez and professor David Rider reported their discovery in the article, “Thestral incognitus, a new genus and species of Pentatomidae from Chile,” recently published in the Zootaxa journal.
They named the stink bug Thestral incognitus, after the creatures imagined by author J.K. Rowling.
In the novels, a thestral is a winged horse that can only be seen after a person has seen death.
“In this particular case, at some point we found that the bug has something like thestrals in his body,” Faundez said. “Our stink bug has ivory carinae and calluses on its dorsum that are similar to that skeletal structure.”
Faundez said the research was a long-term project that involved a trip to the Smithsonian Institution’s insect collection.
The trip was funded by the Knipling Thesis Enhancement Award from the NDSU Entomology department. The new species of stink bug will be featured in his dissertation.
Naming a new species can take many paths. Most are named for their color or shape, others honor a researcher for their work while others are named for the location they were found. Sometimes a bug deserves something truly distinctive.
The Harry Potter series already has a wasp (Ampulex dementor), spider (Aname aragog) and dinosaur (Dracorex howartsia) named after characters.
Faundez said one reason for the unique name is because the name of a new species or genus needs to be different from any other in the same kingdom.
Two animals can’t have the same name. If it happens, the one named last is considered invalid. This encourages researchers to be creative.
“Additionally, the specimens of this new genus come from localities that have been fairly well-collected,” Faundez said. “Yet, we believe that they are hard to find and not all people can see them, as Rowling describes thestrals.”
Rider said about 1 million species of insects have been discovered, but estimates show that there are about 10 million more species yet to be identified.
“A reason for choosing this kind of name is that it makes people get interested and learn about the species,” Faundez said. “… People are aware of it and consequently that helps us to get new data. This is important because the work is just starting with this new species.”