May the forest be with you! A new species of gibbon discovered by Chinese researchers in the lush tropical rainforest of southwestern China has been named after iconic Star Wars character Luke Skywalker.
Gibbons are tree-dwelling primates that closely resemble monkeys but being tailless, are classified as apes. Previous to the discovery by a research team from Sun Yat-sen University led by Fang Peng-fei, gibbons of the family Hylobatidae made up 4 distinct genera and 17 different species. The new Skywalker Gibbon, “Hoolock Tianxing”, becomes the third gibbon species in the genus Hoolick.
The Chinese characters used to form the new gibbon's name translate to “Heaven's Movement” and as the researchers were self-described Star Wars fans, naming it after actor Mark Hamill's screen character just seemed natural. Scientists estimate only about 200 of the newly discovered gibbons inhabit a small portion of the Gaoligongshan nature reserve in China's Yunnan province, though it's possible more may be found across the border in Myanmar.
The region has suffered much environmental depredation due to legal and illegal logging, and the researchers had to climb 2,500 meters into the hills to find gibbons in their undisturbed natural habitat. Due to the ongoing threat to the gibbons from human interaction and habitat loss, the new Skywalker Gibbons have already been declared to be an endangered species. (via Shanghaiist and SOHU)