No, it wasn’t discovered a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but a previously unknown species of catfish has been named in honor of a Star Wars character nonetheless.
The suckermouth armored catfish or Peckoltia greedoi earned its name due to its resemblance to Greedo, a bounty hunter from Mos Espa killed by Han Solo in the Cantina in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In pictures, the fish and the alien look like they were separated at birth.
“He looks like that guy from Star Wars”
Peckoltia greedoi was discovered along the Gurupi River in Brazil in 1998, and seven years later, Jonathan Armbruster, a biological sciences professor and curator of fishes for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, obtained a specimen for use in a paper on the genus.
Ten years later, he and colleagues from Auburn’s Department of Biological Sciences examined the catfish, which is known for its large, dark eyes, sucker mouth and protruding bristles, when they first made the connection between the real-life fish and the fictional bounty hunter.
As Armbruster explained in a statement, evolutionary biologist Chris Hamilton “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.”
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“The Peckoltia greedoi does bear a striking resemblance to Greedo,” he added. “As a seven-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.”
Not his first naming rodeo
To date, Armbruster has described over 40 species of fishes, including a minnow found in the Auburn area. While this is the first species he has named in honor of a fictional character, he has turned to friends and colleagues for inspiration in the past.
“I have named a few species after colleagues like Peckoltia lujani for my former student, Nathan Lujan, Hypostomus pagei for my advisor, Lawrence Page, and Peckoltia sabaji for a close friend and colleague, Mark Sabaj Pérez,” he said . “I’ve also had former students name species for me.”
Other famously named critters
As NBC News points out, though, several other scientists have named creatures in honor of well-known figures, both real and fictional. A horsefly with a golden rear-end was called Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae in honor of pop star Beyoncé, while an extinct arthropod was named after Johnny Depp, Kootenichela deppi, due to its resemblance to his character Edward Scissorhands.
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Peckoltia greedoi isn’t even the first to be named in honor of a Star Wars character, the media outlet added: a reddish-purple acorn worm with large lips on either side of its head named after the Jedi master Yoda. The Yoda purpurata or “purple Yoda” was discovered by scientists at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and named back in October 2012.
Armbruster, who is a taxonomist, said that the naming of species and higher groups 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.”
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