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Published: Fri, January 13, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

'Star Wars gibbon' unveiled as a new primate species

'Star Wars gibbon' unveiled as a new primate species

Researchers, who were Star Wars fans, also chose the name because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean "Heaven's movement". Consider this week's news about the discovery of a new primate species there - and the name that scientists have given it.

The skywalker hoolock gibbon is also called the Gaoligong hoolock gibbon as the species has been found in the area of Mt. Gaoligong on the Myanmar-China border.

Scientists have identified a new gibbon species found in south-west China and have made a decision to name the primate Skywalker hoolock gibbon because, well, they are Star Wars fans. Genetic traits also set it apart from the rest.

Hoolock gibbons in general (presumably themselves named after the crossover fandom between Doctor Who and Sherlock fans) have white eyebrows and white beards and are found in Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar, where they spend the vast majority of their time in the trees.

"Hoolocks distributed to the east of the Irrawaddy-Nmai Hka Rivers, which were previously assigned to H. leuconedys, are morphologically and genetically distinct from those to the west of the river, and should be recognized as a new species, the Gaoligong hoolock gibbon or skywalker hoolock gibbon". He added that more research involving the skywalker hoolock gibbons should be undertaken soon, in order to learn more about this new species before it disappears forever. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, an organization that track species around the world, has stated that the so-called "Luke Skywalker" gibbons are endangered.

You may think that's pretty cool, but you probably aren't almost as excited about it as Mark Hamill, who famously played Luke Skywalker in the film series, and who shared his delight on social media, along with fans. "First the Pez dispenser, then the Underoos & U.S. postage stamp. now this!"

The Gaoligong mountains are a hotspot for discovering new species, according to the scientists, with other primates and amphibians among the creatures newly identified in the difficult-to-access region.

The study was reported in the most recent edition of the American Journal of Primatology.

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