New species of hairy weevil named after Chewbacca

Four previously undiscovered beetles found on island off Papua New Guinea

Trigonopterus chewbacca

FUR BALL  Trigonopterus chewbacca may not be as tall as its namesake, but the new weevil species is plenty hairy.

M.H. Van Dam et al/ZooKeys 2016

In a galaxy far, far away, Chewbacca is a 7.5-foot-tall Wookiee. On Earth, he’s a small furry beetle.

Researchers discovered four new species of weevils on an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea, one of which they named after the lofty Star Wars character. Trigonopterus chewbacca is a black, flightless beetle about 3 millimeters long that thrives in the tropical forests of New Britain. Although T. chewbacca doesn’t resemble its namesake in size, the dense hairlike scales covering its head and legs reminded the researchers of Chewbacca’s fur.

Before these finds, Trigonopterus beetles hadn’t been spotted on New Britain. The discovery of T. chewbacca and its three relatives, T. obsidianus, T. puncticollis and T. silaliensis, suggests that the genus colonized the island at least four separate times, the team reports April 21 in ZooKeys.

T. chewbacca joins the ranks of other insects with a Star Wars moniker. Among its peers: a furry moth also named after the heroic Wookiee, a wasp named for Yoda and a Darth Vader slime-mold beetle. 

Cassie Martin is a deputy managing editor. She has a bachelor's degree in molecular genetics from Michigan State University and a master's degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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