Han Solo's faithful and hairy Wookiee friend Chewbacca is now the namesake of one of four newly discovered species of flightless beetle in New Guinea.
The small weevil beetle Trigonopterus chewbacca has hairy legs and dense scales that scientists found quite peculiar, reminding them of the towering Wookiee's shaggy fur.
T. chewbacca is among four new weevil species found on New Britain Island in the Bismarck Archipelago. Among its siblings were T. obsidianus, T. silaliensis, and T. puncticollis.
Meet The Chewbacca Beetle
Unlike the beetle's Star Wars namesake, it cannot rely on size to scare other species off as it is only between 2.78 to 3.13 millimeters.
The beetle's body is black and shaped like a rhomboid, while its antenna and legs seem rusty. What likens the beetle to Chewbacca, however, is its strangely dense scales, covering its legs and head.
Searching For Beetles
The beetle genus Trigonopterus is endemic in the Oceania subregion Melanesia where Papua New Guinea is located, but prior to the new study, there had been only one species of Trigonopterus known in the Bismarck Archipelago.
To find out how it was possible that the hyperdiverse Trigonopterus has never been spotted in New Britain, two members of the research team, which had comprised of Dr. Alexander Riedel, Dr. Matthew Van Dam, and Raymond Laufa, travelled to the island, double-checking leaf litter and foliage.
After 10 days of beating foliage and sifting leaf litter, researchers eventually found 18 individual beetles in primary forests on limestone karst. They later assigned the beetles to four different separate species.
However, the scarce findings were still striking, especially because the beetles were abundant in similar areas in the New Guinean mainland.
Meanwhile, the research team concludes that the beetle genus must have occupied New Britain at least four times in the past. Given the topography, tropical vegetation, and size of the island, it is possible that the genus has undergone "local speciation" on the island, but this requires deeper investigation.
The findings of the new study are featured in the journal ZooKeys.