Ancient Lizard Named After Harry Potter Sectumsempra Spell


A student from Bristol University discovers an ancient lizard and named it after a spell used in the Harry Potter books. The reptile was named clevosaurus sectumsemper, with the first word being the Latin form of Gloucester where the lizard was originally found, and sectumsemper is derived from the sectumsempra spell made by Professor Severus Snape in the popular book series.

For her summer project, Catherine Klein looked at the quarry in Gloucester, where numerous caves and fissures containing sediments can be found. Bones of small reptiles are usually infused in these sediments, which scientists study to understand how the ancient animals lived with the dinosaurs. These fissures are internationally-recognized to provide valuable insight about the small reptiles. The 21-year-old undergraduate studied the fossils she acquired and soon, she was able to confirm that a lizard has enough differences with other clevosaurs, considering it a whole new specie.

The newly-discovered lizard is predatory and is said to be a relative of the tuatara lizard found in New Zealand. The reptile measures approximately four inches in length and lived 205 million years ago. The distinct characteristic of this lizard is its sharp teeth that heal by itself.

"The new species probably lived in a relatively hostile environment because there is a relatively high occurrence of healed fractures," Klein says. "Possibly the animals were fighting each other due to a limited food source or perhaps they preyed on each other and bones were broken, but some individuals survived and their broken bones healed."

The tuatara lizards eat a variety of food hence, the new clevosaurus sectumsemper probably fed on different food items as their teeth patterns were different as well.

Sectumsemper means "always cut" and for this, the derivation of the word from the Harry Potter spell is supplemented by the true meaning of the word, which indeed reflects the characteristics of the lizard. In the fantasy novel, Professor Snape invents the spell when he was still a student the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In one of the books, Harry Potter discovers the incantation to perform the spell through an old textbook of his teacher. He was able to cast the spell on his nemesis, Draco Malfoy, who was severely injured from the "invisible sword".

Photo: Michael Shehan Obeysekera | Flickr

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