The new species of gibbon lives in the forests of southwest China and is already endangered
A new species of gibbon has been identified and named after the popular character from epic sci-fi Star Wars.
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The gibbon, now formally called Skywalker hoolock gibbon or Gaoligong hoolock gibbon, has been found in the remote forests of southwest China. This is the new member of genus hoolock which is native to Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and China. Only two species were recognized in the genus before. The Chinese characters for its scientific name translate to “heaven’s movement.”
Hoolocks are the second-largest of the gibbons, after the black furred siamang gibbons. They can grow up to 35 inches and weighs around 13 pounds.
The newly-identified gibbon species has been studied by scientists for almost 10 years. Initially, it confused with other species of hoolock genus but eventually identified as a separate species.
Skywalker hoolock gibbon can be distinguished from other gibbons by its overall color, variation of eyebrows and color of beard. Genetic traits also set it apart from the rest.
However, the new gibbon species is already critically endangered. Researchers estimate that their population currently consists of just 200 individuals, prompting calls for change in their status.
“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.” Author wrote in the study.
“We consider that new species should be categorized as Endangered under IUCN. The discovery of the new species focuses attention on the need for improved conservation of small apes, many of which are in danger of extinction in southern China and Southeast Asia.”
Researchers have named the new species after the Luke Skywalker because they are avid fans of the Star Wars series.
Mark Hamill, the actor who played the character of Luke Skywalker in the movie, is overwhelmed by the gesture. He tweeted. “So proud of this! First the Pez dispenser, then the Underoos & U.S. postage stamp... now this!"
So proud of this! First the Pez dispenser, then the Underoos & U.S. postage stamp... now this! #GorillaMyDreams #SimianSkywalker #JungleJedi https://t.co/JKCe5kZFmJ— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) January 11, 2017