Whether they fly in the air or swim far down in the deep, have soul-searching eyes or giant teeth—we all have a favorite animal (or a few), and our reasons for loving them tend to be very personal. We may not think about it very often, but our favorite animal we loudly announced to the class when we were kids was a big part of our formative journey.
…As were the animals that absolutely terrify us (and those fears, too, are super personal and telling).
Despite a series of strong male lead roles in action-packed films, 81-year-old Harrison Ford is no exception to having a least favorite animal or two, and ironically, he keeps getting the “creepy crawlies” named after him.
A newly-discovered ant, the Pheidole harrisonfordi, was named after Ford in 2003, and another insect, the Calponia harrisonfordi Platnick spider, was named after him in 2021. Now, according to the latest issue of the science journal, Salamandra, the latest addition to the Harrison Ford animal family is the 16-inch Peruvian snake, Tachymenoides harrisonfordi.
The Action-Packed Tale Behind the Now-Viral Serpent
Last year while searching for lizards in a swamp at the top of a Peruvian mountain, Edgar Lehr and fellow researchers came across the snake, but they were at first distracted by what felt like “a moment out of an action film,” according to Lehr, as a drone flew overhead and began following them. It turned out to be a drone specifically monitoring for possible cartel activity, so that action-packed moment ended nearly as soon as it had begun.
But their journey with the snake had only just started as they carted it back with them for research.
After multiple DNA tests and other screenings, Lehr and his fellow researchers were able to confirm that this was an uncategorized species of swamp snake, now recognized for its copper-colored eyes with a vertical streak above them, as well as scattered black blotches and a black belly, all of which help the animal camouflage from predators.
Initially discovered in the Valley of the Apurímac, between the Ene and Mantaro rivers, Lehr was not sure what to name the snake—until he saw the trailer for the latest Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Between the movie coming out and the already cinematic experience they’d had while collecting the snake, not to mention Indiana Jones’ ironic fear of snakes, Lehr was sure it was meant to be.
Indiana Jones’ “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?” Gains New Virality
& Harrison Ford’s Priceless Reaction to His Namesake
Lehr went through all the proper channels and approached Ford via Conservation International, for which Ford is the Vice Chairman. The actor immediately approved of the namesake, but his public reaction went viral.
In his endearingly curmudgeonly way, Ford confided:
“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.”
But while he had the world’s attention, Harrison Ford also argued for advocacy:
“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.”
All Animals Deserve Advocacy, No Matter How Big or How Small, with Really Large Teeth or No Teeth At All.
This actor’s take was an excellent reminder of the importance of advocating for the animals that many deem as “creepy crawlies” or something that should have been kept locked away in Pandora’s Box. People are quick to support beautiful wild cats and adorable pandas, but when it comes to snakes, insects, and cold-blooded animals, their support is dwindling while their advocacy needs are on the rise.
The same remains true for sharks, who are vitally important to the natural conservation of the marine ecosystem. Because of their public depiction and representation in entertainment media, people are far less likely to support them than, say, whales or dolphins. According to a study by João Neves et al., published in Marine Policy, people often express apathy toward sharks and view them as agentic in their role as a human predator (meaning, like in the Jaws or The Meg films, the sharks displayed clear, conscious motivation to attack), which has impacted the amount of support they’ve received.
It’s important not only for people to stop comparing sharks visually with dolphins, whales, and fish, but for them to also destigmatize the role the shark plays in its marine ecosystem. While it might be fun to watch shark horror films, it’s important to remember they are not the villains they are animatronically portrayed to be.
More about this coming soon in Issue 2 of Lit Shark Magazine: The SHARK WEEK Edition and Issue 3 of Lit Shark Magazine: The Spooky (TEETH) Edition. . .