Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Hairy-Legged 'Chewbacca Beetle' Discovered in New Guinea

by Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | April 26, 2016 07:15am ET

The towering and shaggy Wookiee character Chewbacca from the "Star Wars" movies has a new namesake — a tiny weevil recently discovered in New Guinea.

Though the insect is significantly smaller and much less hairy than everyone's favorite "walking carpet," dense scales on the weevil's legs and head reminded the scientists of Chewbacca's fur, prompting their name choice.

Trigonopterus chewbacca is one of four new weevil species identified on the island of New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago in New Guinea. Discovered alongside it were the somewhat less whimsically named weevils T. obsidianus, T. puncticollis and T. silaliensis.

T. chewbacca is a flightless weevil, a type of beetle typically found in leaf litter in forests. The male's body is black with hair-like structures on its antennae and legs, and measures 0.13 inches (3.34 millimeters) in length.

Scientists spent 10 days combing through leaf litter for the miniscule beetles, eventually collecting 18 specimens that represented the four new species.

Previously, only one known species in the Trigonopterus weevil group had been found in this region, although prior studies described Trigonopterus weevils in New Caledonia, Samoa and Fiji. While T. chewbacca was the first species in this group that was named for a "Star Wars" character, it's not the only one with a celebrity-inspired monikerTrigonopterus attenboroughi — described in a study published in ZooKeys in 2014 — was named for famed British naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

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