Yoda Worm Found Deep Beneath The Atlantic Ocean
October 8, 2012

Named After Yoda, Newly Discovered Acorn Worm Species Is

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Yoda, the wizened old Jedi master popularized in the Star Wars series of films, has been immortalized by scientists who have named a newly-discovered species of acorn worm in his honor.

As Discovery.com's Amanda Onion reported on Friday, the new species, Yoda purpurata, is one of three recently discovered living 1 1/2 miles beneath the Atlantic Ocean. The worm was named in honor of Yoda because of large flaps on the sides of its heads that apparently invoked memories of the Dagobah-resident's large, pointed ears, she added.

The official translation of the worm's name is "purple Yoda," with the second part of the moniker representing the creature's color, Douglas Main of OurAmazingPlanet explained. It was discovered, along with the other two new acorn worm species, along the seafloor of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge by investigators from Scotland's University of Aberdeen.

Their findings are detailed in the September issue of the journal Invertebrate Biology.

"Shallow water acorn worms live in burrows and are rarely seen, whereas deep sea species live on the seafloor, leaving spiral traces of poo that resemble crop circles. These traces have been seen in fossil form, but until recently, nobody knew what produced them," Main said.

"Scientists are interested in these deep sea species because they are close to the evolutionary link between vertebrates and invertebrates," he added. "In other words, the force is strong with them."

According to a report published late last week by the Guardian, Yoda purpurata joins a long list of new species named after well-known characters, entertainers or other celebrities.

Among those new species are a fish parasite named in honor of Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley, a horse fly named after R&B artist Beyonce and three slime-mold beetles tagged with the monikers of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

One of the researchers, University of Aberdeen Professor Monty Priede, told the Press Association, "Our colleague in California, Nick Holland, the world authority on enteropneusts, chose the name Yoda for the new genus characterized by its large, ear-like lips. There is much interest in acorn worms from the point of view of understanding the early evolution of the vertebrates. Whilst they are not strictly a missing link in our own evolution, they give an insight into what the lifestyle of our remote ancestors might have been like."