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New species of a venomous African Bush Viper is named after Metallica’s James Hetfield

A new venomous snake species discovered in Africa has been named in honor of Metallica frontman James Hetfield.

Researchers say the African bush viper boasts a triangular-shaped head and dragon-like appearance that echoes the image of the musician. 

They’ve given it the scientific name Atheris hetfieldi.

The reptile can grow to more than 20 inches long and is covered in strongly keeled, or ridged, scales. 

It was first observed in the early 1900s, but its taxonomy ‘was never fully resolved.’

‘[It] gives them a dragon-like appearance, which certainly is consonant with the image of a singer of a heavy metal band,’ Luis Ceríaco, herpetology curator at the University of Lisbon’s National Museum of Natural History and Science, wrote in a report this month in the journal Zootaxa. 

According to Ceríaco, Atheris hetfieldi lives at the base of a volcano on Bioko, an island about 20 miles off the coast of western Africa. 

After his team examined specimens, Ceríaco wrote, they determined ‘the newly described species presents a series of morphological characters that clearly differentiate it’ from another bush viper found on the island.

This is the first new snake species found on Bioko in more than 100 years – and the only one recognized as endemic to the island, Ceríaco said.

He and Mariana Marques, the paper’s second author, have been Metallica since they were kids.

‘We wanted to honor him, as a thank you for all the good vibes his music has transmitted to us during all of our personal lives and careers,’ he told Metal Hammer.

‘Also, we think that a mysterious venomous and cool looking snake, who lives in the base of a volcano lost in the middle of the tropical forest is very relatable to heavy metal!’ 

A bite from an African bush viper can cause pain, swelling and, in at least a few case, death. 

No Atheris-specific antivenom has ever been developed.   

Ceriaco hopes the high-profile taxonomy ‘brings more attention to the much needed biodiversity studies and field surveys.’

‘We are in race against the extinction of a large proportion of the world’s biodiversity, and many species may go extinct before we even know they exist!’

This isn’t the first cold-blooded creature named for the Grammy-winning rockers.

A tiny worm-like crustacean that lives 16,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific was christened Macrostylis metallicola in February.

‘The powerful music of Metallica has accompanied me the majority of my life,’ said deep-sea scientist Torben Riehl of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, Germany.

In 2017 a Jurassic era crocodile fossil was named after Motorhead frontman Lemmy.

That same year, Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster was the inspiration for Websteroprion armstrongi, a species of giant prehistoric worms uncovered in Canada.

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