Thanks to an Indiana Jones line of dialogue in Steven Spielberg’s 1984 blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford has long been associated with snakes. The association is now formalized in real life.
Researchers have discovered a new species of snake in Peru’s Andes Mountains and named the variety after Ford. The species is called Tachymenoides harrisonfordi and is described as a type of slender snake reaching 16 inches in length. The snake is a pale tan with scattered black spots, a black belly, and a vertical stripe across its copper-colored eye, making it well camouflaged from the environment. The discovery, a joint collaboration between researchers from Peru and the United States, revealed just one male snake in May 2022 when it was basking in a swamp in Otishi National Park.
Intel about the species and the new name were published today in Salamandra, a scientific journal. According to researchers, they named the snake after 81-year-old Ford in honor of his decades of environmental advocacy, evidenced by his role as vice chairman of the Preserve Internationalan organization that, among other things, spread the news.
“These scientists keep naming critters after me, but it’s always the ones that scare kids. I do not understand. I spend my free time embroidering. I sing lullabies to my basil plants so they don’t fear the night,” said Ford, who also inspired the names of an ant (Pheidole harrisonfordi) and a spider (Calponia harrisonfordi). “In all seriousness, this discovery is humiliating. It reminds us that there is still so much to learn about our wild world – and that humans are only a small part of an impossibly vast biosphere. On this planet, all destinies are intertwined, and right now a million species teeter on the edge of oblivion. We have an existential mandate to mend our broken relationship with nature and protect the places that sustain life.”
Last year, Conservation International experts published a study that found one-fifth of the world’s reptiles are threatened with extinction. “Too often reptile conservation is overlooked – most people probably don’t think snakes are as cute as a fuzzy panda cub, but their role in the world’s ecosystems is just as important,” explains Neil Cox, manager of the Conservation International-IUCN out. Biodiversity Assessment Unit, which was the author of the 2022 Global Reptile Assessment. “This discovery helps us better understand how snake species exist and survive in the world, and I hope the funny name will bring attention to the threat of extinction facing reptiles worldwide.”
One of the researchers, Edgar Lehr, a professor of biology at Illinois Wesleyan University, said the team is “honoured” that Ford accepted the snake’s new 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 seeks to discover the unknown – often an adventurous and expensive process that requires more financial support from funding agencies. Only known organisms can be protected.”
On that line of dialogue, Ford famously exclaimed, “Snakes. Why did they have to be snakes?” during a particularly chilling scene in the script written by Lawrence Kasdan (from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman) that showed the archaeologist in the Well of Souls surrounded by thousands of gliding reptiles.Watch a behind-the-scenes video below.