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After an ant and a spider, Harrison Ford now has a snake named after him


JOHN RHYS-DAVIES: (As Sallah) Why does the floor move?

HARRISON FORD: (As Indy) Give me your torch.


Indiana Jones famously can't stand snakes.


RASCOE: In "Raiders Of The Lost Ark," after his crew opens up the Well of Souls, he looks down into it, and he sees it's crawling with...


FORD: (As Indy) Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

RASCOE: But the actor who played the role, Harrison Ford, has just had a newly discovered species named after him. The slender brown and yellow snake was found in Peru's Andes Mountains by a team of American and Peruvian researchers. The lead scientist was Edgar Lehr, a professor of biology at Illinois Wesleyan University, and he joins us now. Welcome to the program.

EDGAR LEHR: Thank you for having me.

RASCOE: So, OK, can you start by giving us the full name of this newly discovered snake? It's a little tricky to pronounce, and I'm known for butchering my pronunciations.

LEHR: I totally agree. Scientific names can be challenging. It's Tachymenoides harrisonfordi.

RASCOE: OK. Tachymenoides...

LEHR: Harrisonfordi.

RASCOE: Harrisonfordi.

LEHR: Correct.

RASCOE: And so can you describe the snake to us? Like, is there anything special about it?

LEHR: Yeah. The coloration that you have mentioned is kind of a yellowish brown, and it has beautiful, copper eyes. It's a pretty snake which is also very well-camouflaged hiding in grass.

RASCOE: And this snake was discovered in a really remote part of Peru. How was the snake even spotted?

LEHR: The Otishi National Park was on my list for many years because it's so remotely located. You have to fly in with a helicopter. And then we had all, like, equipment for camping for about three weeks, and then we explored the area. You have to see what kind of amphibians, frogs, toads and reptiles, lizards and snakes we can find.

RASCOE: Was it hard to find the snake? 'Cause you said it's really good at hiding.

LEHR: Exactly, so it was simply a lucky moment that we were running into it. In the morning, it was sun basking in a swamp and was lying there. And a colleague who spotted it first quickly grabbed it. Often, it's luck. You have to be at the right moment at the right time.

RASCOE: And Harrison Ford already has a new species of spider and an ant named after him. So why now a snake?

LEHR: I'm a big fan of the "Indiana Jones" movies, and when I was working on the species description, I think I got influenced by one of the trailers of "The Dial Of Destiny." And I was wondering - wait a minute. Wouldn't it be great - Indiana Jones, who hates snakes, and then you have Harrison Ford, who loves snakes, was an advocate for conservation - to kind of name it after Harrison Ford? And this was when the idea was born.

RASCOE: As a biologist, how worried are you about the loss of biodiversity and the impact of that loss?

LEHR: I'm not very optimistic. We, as humans, are part of biodiversity, and if the surroundings are suffering - let's say frogs are disappearing, fewer insects, fewer pollinators - it goes back to us. So we are risking our own survival when we do not care about the health of the nature.

RASCOE: That's Edgar Lehr, a biology professor from Illinois Wesleyan University. Thank you so much for being with us.

LEHR: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "RAIDERS MARCH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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