A new species of gibbon, an ape in the Hylobatidae family, was discovered in China by a group of scientists that also happen to be big fans of "Star Wars" films.
The gibbon was named "the Skywalker hoolock" after Luke Skywalker, the key protagonist of the original film trilogy of the "Star Wars" saga. The animal's name in Chinese characters, "Hoolock tianxing," is translated to “Heaven’s movement.”
Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker, posted comments on Twitter about the gibbon species’ new name.
Like the rest of the species in the Hylobatidae family, hoolock gibbons spend a majority of their time in the trees and are mostly found in China, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Because their “songs” – vocalizations used to connect with other gibbons – sounded different, the team of scientists were able to perform comparisons with other species and confirm that the then-unnamed Skywalker hoolock was a different kind of gibbon.
The animal’s habitat is quickly disappearing, and all except one of its species is considered endangered or critically engendered. It is one of the most threatened primate species on the planet, according to National Geographic.
"In the [south-west of China], so many species have declined or gone extinct because of habitat loss, hunting and general human overpopulation,” Dr. Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London told the BBC News. Turvey was also one of the scientists studying the species.
"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 unrecognized by science,” he said.
The team of scientists who named the animal are not the only Star Wars fans. The saga, which originally premiered in 1977, is known for its huge fan base and has its own fan community website on Fandom called Wookieepedia with over 133,350 pages.