Star Wars inspires name for new gibbon species found in China

A new species of gibbon found in the remote forests of China has been named after one of Star Wars' most famous characters.

Scientists on the China-Burma border have found a new species of hoolock gibbons after rigorous genetic examinations.

Because the team of researchers are big fans of the Star Wars franchise, the newly found gibbon has been named after one of its most iconic characters.

The originally named Gaoligong hoolock gibbon is also called Skywalker, after the Jedi.

But that is not the only reason.

When spelled out in Chinese characters, the name Skywalker reads "Heaven's movement" - a supposed reference to the way the gibbon acts.

It was previously thought the gibbons belonged to one of two already-known species of hoolock gibbons, a type of primate found in Bangladesh, India, China and Burma, where they live in the trees, feeding mostly on fruit, leaves and shoots.

In response to the news, actor Mark Hamill - who plays Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies - tweeted: "So proud of this! First the Pez dispenser, then the Underoos & U.S. postage stamp... now this!"

With the animals facing illegal hunting and destruction, damage and fragmentation of their habitat, scientists have recommend the gibbon to be categorised as "endangered".

"The discovery of the new species focuses attention on the need for improved conservation of small apes," the researchers said.

"Many of which are in danger of extinction in southern China and Southeast Asia."

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