“A Long Time Ago in an Ocean Far, Far Away…”
by Julie Cremer
Millions of fans were super hyped when a brand new teaser trailer appeared for the upcoming film: Star Wars Episode 7-The Force Awakens. What began as one film directed by George Lucas in 1977 has become a worldwide phenomenon that has spread like wildfire over the past thirty-eight years! Episode 7 continues the Star Wars saga twenty to thirty years after Return of the Jedi. Our friends Luke, Han, Leia and Chewbacca may have aged, but they are still battling in the war of the dark side verses the light side of the Force.
In honor of the upcoming Star Wars film, which premieres in December of this year, I decided to dedicate an article to marine creatures who are named after Star Wars characters! In addition, I thought this would please all of my fellow Star Wars fanatics who also happen to be fish fanatics as well. Surprisingly (Or maybe not surprisingly), there are a number of animals, both marine and non-marine, who have gotten their namesakes from a familiar face seen on Tattoine…or Dagoba…or Coruscant…I could go on and on.So without further ado, here are just a few marine species that have the Force with them.
“Swim or swim not…there is no try.”
In 2012, a new species of Acorn worm was discovered one and a half miles deep in the Atlantic Ocean. Species of acorn worms spend pretty much their entire lives living in U-shaped burrows within the seafloor; this makes it hard for humans to observe and study them. From the shallows to the deep sea floor, acorn worms hide in these burrows with only their proboscis, or tongue-like mouth, sticking up out of the surface. Acorn worms will then use their proboscis to consume sand or much that contain nutrients and organic matter. Instead of being fed to a Sarlacc, imagine Jabba the Hutt feeding Luke, Han and Lando to a giant acorn worm!
This new species of acorn worm was dubbed Yoda purpurata, or “Purple Yoda” because of the purple “lips”on either side of the worm’s cranial end that resemble the floppy ears of the well-known Jedi master. An ECOMAR remote operated submersible stumbled upon this miniature alien while searching for new species of marine life along the Mid-Atlantic Ridgeline. The Force was definitely strong with the scientists who discovered this new genus of acorn worm.
“Oota goota, Solo?”
Remember Greedo?….that weird, green alien with a face that looked like a cross between Shrek and a bug that Han blasts in the Mos Eisley Cantina? Well believe it or not, there is a fish that looks just like him! Meet Peckoltia greedoi, a species of armored catfish that was discovered in 1998. These fish can be found in Brazil inhabiting the Gurupi River. The round, black eyes and sucker-like mouth do indeed resemble that do resemble the Han-pursuing bounty hunter. Although this fish was discovered in 1998, it wasn’t until 2005 that a name was officially given to this species of fish. A specimen that had been collected at the Museum of Natural History at Auburn University caught the attention of a group of scientists. A coworker of one of the scientists mentioned that the fish closely resembled the Rodian alien from Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope.”
“I love you.”
I have saved the best for last….HAN SOLO! How could we not forget this infamous character with his big, furry Wookie sidekick and speedy Millenium Falcon (the sci-fi version of The Fast and Furious). A species of Trilobite, a group of extinct marine arthropods, was named after this infamous rebel. There are a whopping twenty-thousand plus species of Trilobites categorized in ten orders that have been found in fossil beds all over the world! H. solo is the only species found in the genus Han that has been found in Southern China. Scientists believe that Trilobites spend much of their time hanging out on the ocean floor; burrowing in muddy silt and foraging for worms and other invertebrates. It’s kind of ironic that Han Solo, who was eventually encased in carbonite, would have an animal named after him that has been encased as a fossil in rock for millions of years! Han would have a long, long wait for Luke and Leia to rescue him from Jabba the Hutt’s palace.
So there you go! Star Wars has made such a huge impact in history, movies, culture and even in the realm of Science. I personally challenge each and every one of you to research all of the different animal and plant species that have been named after famous characters and people from pop culture. The results you will find are pretty staggering to say the least. So throw on your black cape, take up your lightsaber and may the Force be with you!
1.: Armbruster JW, Werneke DC, Tan M (2015) Three new species of saddled loricariid catfishes, and a review of Hemiancistrus, Peckoltia, and allied genera (Siluriformes). ZooKeys 480: 97-123. (open access)
2: Turvey ST (2005) Agnostid trilobites from the Arenig-Llanvirn of South China. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences 95 (3-4): 527-542. (abstract)
3.Priede IG, et al. (2012) Observations on torquaratorid acorn worms (Hemichordata, Enteropneusta) from the North Atlantic with descriptions of a new genus and three new species. Invertebrate Biology 131(3): 244-257. (abstract
4. Beentjes, Kevin. “A Fish Called Greedo: 10 Species Named After Star Wars”. World Wide Web. http://www.starwars.com/news/a-fish-called-greedo-10-species-named-after-star-wars. 1st April, 2015. Accessed 17th April, 2015.
1. Credit David Shale