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The Force is strong with this adorable newly-discovered gibbon species.
Thanks to some Star Wars-loving scientists, the new species in southwest China has been named in honor of our favorite hero from a galaxy far far away, Luke Skywalker.
Following the announcement, the Skywalker hoolock gibbon — aka “Simian Skywalker,” “Jungle Jedi” and of course, the scientific name, Hoolock tianxing — was warmly and appropriately welcomed by proud actor Mark Hamill, who portrayed Skywalker in the classic films.
And then Twitter couldn’t contain itself. Users are doing their best to call attention to the newly-discovered species, tweeting silly side-by-side photographs of apes and Hamill’s character at him.
According to CNN, Professor Fan Pengfei from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou along with a team comprised of experts from the Zoological Society of London ZSL, had been studying the small apes since 2008.
Though the experts already had knowledge of two existing species of hoolock gibbons, the Western and Eastern hoolocks, they determined in an American Journal of Primatology paper, that due to differences found in the apes’ teeth, coats and genetics, a third species was present.
“Skywalker refers to the distinctive gibbon behavior of moving rapidly through the forest canopy, and it also refers to the ancient Chinese belief that gibbons were highly venerated and almost mystical beings that were above other mortal animals,” Samuel Turvey, a member of the ZSL research team, told CNN. However, he added, “Skywalker” also pays homage to the pop-culture icon.
Though this is an exciting new discovery for scientists and Star Wars fans alike, the scientists feel the new species should be categorized as Endangered under IUCN criteria — estimating less than 200 of the species are currently in China.
Turvey told CNN that unfortunately the species “faces the same grave and imminent risk to its survival as many other small ape species in southern China and Southeast Asia due to habitat loss and hunting.”
While researchers are still uncertain of exactly how many of the Skywalker hoolock gibbon reside in areas surrounding China, Turvey told CNN, “Increased awareness of the remarkable ecosystem of the Gaoligong mountains and improved conservation is essential, to ensure we have time to get fully acquainted with this exciting new species before it’s too late.”
Long live the Skywalker hoolock gibbon.
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