Bristol

Harry Potter sectumsempra spell inspires lizard name

Reconstruction of what Clevosaurus sectumsemper may have looked like Image copyright Katharine Whiteside
Image caption Measuring just 11cm (4in) from snout to tail, Clevosaurus sectumsemper is the smallest of the clevosaurs or 'Gloucester lizards'

A previously-undiscovered species of ancient lizard has been named after a spell cast in the Harry Potter books.

The 205-million-year-old reptile was discovered in a drawer of fossils at the University of Bristol by student Catherine Klein.

Measuring just 11cm (4in) from snout to tail, Clevosaurus sectumsemper is the smallest of the "Gloucester lizards".

Ms Klein said the name was "a nod" to the sectumsempra curse cast by Severus Snape in Harry Potter.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The reptile's name is "a nod" to the sectumsempra curse cast by Severus Snape, portrayed by Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter films

The previously unstudied "drawer full of rocks" was found in Woodleaze Quarry, near Bristol, in the 1980s.

As part of a summer project, 21-year-old undergraduate Ms Klein extracted thousands of fossils from the rocks and was able to show "enough differences" from known clevosaurs to call it a new species.

"The new species probably lived in a relatively hostile environment because there is a relatively high occurrence of healed fractures," she said.

"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."

Image copyright Katharine Whiteside
Image caption The new species was able to sharpen its teeth with each bite, as they cut past each other very precisely

It was able to "self-sharpen" its "blade-like teeth" with each bite.

"The species name sectumsemper means 'always cut', and was chosen to reflect this," Ms Klein said.

"It is also a nod to the Harry Potter character Severus Snape, who made a spell called sectumsempra."

In J.K. Rowling's novels, Professor Snape invents the curse while studying at Hogwart's, where Harry later discovers the incantation inside one of the teacher's old textbooks.

He unwittingly uses the spell - which acts on its victim like an "invisible sword" - against nemesis Draco Malfoy, and gravely injures him.

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