Scientists announced on Tuesday that they discovered a new species of primate found in the rainforests in south-west China. The new species was called skywalker hoolock gibbon (Hoolock tianxing).
The discovery was announced in the American Journal of Primatology. After a proper genetic and physical comparison with other species of gibbon, this proved to be a new one. The scientists explained the name they had given to the gibbon in the following way. The Chinese characters for skywalker translate as “heaven’s movements”, but they also admitted to be huge Star Wars fans.
The Wisconsin Primate Research Center Library released some biological information regarding the new species of gibbon. Hoolock gibbons in general are about 32 inches tall, have no tail, and weigh around 13 pounds for females and 15 pounds for males.
Skywalker hoolock gibbons differ from the other species of hoolock gibbons in terms of their coloring. Their color varies from dark brown to light brown or even lighter shades. However, a completely white gibbon has never been seen. They also differ in terms of their genital tufts, eyebrows, and beards.
Scientists estimated that an approximate number of 200 skywalker hoolock gibbons live in southern China and potentially in eastern Myanmar. Other specimens can also be found in regions in eastern Bangladesh, northeast India, or Indonesia. They are social primates, but extremely territorial. They defend their territory with flashy displays of appearance and vocals.
Before the discovery of the new species, the populations of skywalker gibbons found in China and Myanmar were counted among the eastern hoolocks (Hoolock leuconedys), species considered as vulnerable on the endangered species list. Since the skywalker gibbon constitutes a new species, its conservation status is hard to establish. Too few populations of the new gibbons have been discovered, but after further research a definite status will be issued. However, the scientists propose that the skywalker hoolock gibbon should be regarded as endangered and added on the list in order to avoid conservation disasters.
The exciting name of the gibbon species has not remained unnoticed. Mark Hamill, the actor playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movie franchise, tweeted about how proud he was of the new species taking his character’s name. Scientists are also optimistic that the pop culture reference will draw attention to the conservation of the new species and hopefully the skywalker gibbon will grow up into the best of Jedis.
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