I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that some biologists are also Star Wars fans, but this is the first time they've named a species after a character from the sci-fi series. After discovering a new species of catfish in South America, taxonomists named the catfish after the character Greedo from Star Wars, who appears in the film Star Wars: A New Hope and the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But this isn't just a case of a scientist taking liberties for the sake of his fandom. One look at the suckermouth armored catfish and Greedo the bounty hunter and it's obvious why these taxonomists chose the name.
The catfish was actually discovered back in 1998, when researchers came across it in the Gurupi River in Brazil. But it would go nameless for another 17 years. In 2005, Auburn University biology professor Jonathan Armbruster obtained the catfish specimens for a manuscript he was writing on the Peckoltia catfish genus. Finally, 10 years later, in 2015, Armbruster and his team of biologists — David Werneke, Milton Tan, and Chris Hamilton — examined the fish again and a light bulb went off. Armbruster told Auburn University's Newsroom site:
Chris looked at the specimen and said, "That looks like that guy from Star Wars." After a little prodding, I realized he was talking about Greedo. We then knew what the name had to be.
That name was Peckoltia greedoi.
The Peckoltia greedoi does bear a striking resemblance to Greedo.
It's true. They both have scaly skin, suction mouths, and large alien-like eyes — well, Greedo is an alien after all.
In the Star Wars universe, Greedo is a bounty hunter from the planet Rodia. He appears in two installments of the franchise, A New Hope and The Clone Wars. In A New Hope, Greedo is hired by Jabba the Hutt to capture Han Solo, which ends up being his last job because Han fatally shoots him in the head. The Clone Wars series takes place 20 years before A New Hope, and on that show, a younger Greedo, perhaps at the beginning of his bounty hunting career, is tasked by the Trade Federation with kidnapping Baron Papanoida's daughters, Che Amanwe and Chi Eekway.
But the uncanny resemblance wasn't the only reason Armbruster and his team chose the name. He told the Newsroom that he is indeed a fan of the films.
As a 7-year-old kid, I watched Star Wars in the theatre and it was a life-changing experience for me. I became a lifelong fan, and I now share that with my son. Greedo has always been a personal favorite of mine.
The new Peckoltia greedoi catfish is just one out of many species that he and his team are cataloging, which Armbruster describes as a seemingly never-ending process.
In biology, taxonomy is probably the most important science. We have not even completed cataloging all of the species found locally, and in places like South America, it sometimes feels like we have barely started. We need names to be able to discuss anything about the biology of the organisms, and it is the one branch of biology used by every biologist alive.We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for the Peckoltia spock sometime in the future.
Images: Auburn University/Flickr; Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics/YouTube; Lucasfilm