A new species of gibbon has been identified and named after a major Star Wars character
Scientists have identified a new gibbon species found in south-west China and have decided to name the primate Skywalker hoolock gibbon because, well, they are Star Wars fans.
The Skywalker name will live on – not just in the fantasy world in a galaxy far, far away, but also in the tropical jungles of Mt Gaoligong, where close to 200 Skywalker gibbons live.
The name was chosen in part because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean “Heaven’s movement”.
Researchers were able to differentiate the Skywalker hoolock gibbon (whose scientific name is Hoolock tianxing, by the way) from other hoolock apes after studying the species for some time.
They found this species had subtle physical differences from other hoolock gibbons. But more importantly, the Skywalker gibbons’ songs – which they use to mark out their territory – also had a slightly different ring to them.
Dr Sam Turvey, from the Zoological Society of London, who was part of the research team, told BBC News: “In this area, so many species have declined or gone extinct because of habitat loss, hunting and general human overpopulation.
“So it’s an absolute privilege to see something as special and as rare as a gibbon in a canopy in a Chinese rainforest, and especially when it turns out that the gibbons are actually a new species previously unrecognised by science.”
Meanwhile, the news reached Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise, who tweeted his appreciation:
Hoolock gibbons are found mainly in Asia and can be seen in countries such as India, Bangladesh, India, Burma and China.
The research team was led by Fan Peng-Fei, from Sun Yat-sen University in China.
The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.