Newly Discovered Species of Weevil Named After Chewbacca

Dr Matthew H. Van Dam of the SNSB-Zoological State Collection, Raymond Laufa of The University of Papua New Guinea, and Dr Alexander Riedel of the Natural History Museum of Karlsruhe have discovered a new species of weevil, and they’ve named it after the beloved character Chewbacca from the Star Wars film series.

Trigonopterus chewbacca was one of four new species discovered, but is distinguished by its prominent scales.

“Unlike its sci-fi namesake,” says an article in EurekAlert, “the Chewbacca beetle cannot rely on its measurements to scare other possibly malevolent species off.”

“It only measures between 2.78 and 3.13 mm. Dissimilar again, is its body, which is black and rhomboid-shaped, while its legs and antenna appear rusty. What likens the beetle to “Chewie”, however, is its distinctively dense scales, covering its head and legs.”

You can read the full scientific study here. If you aren’t inclined to read the whole thing, here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

“Trigonopterus Fauvel is a genus of flightless weevils of the subfamily Cryptorhynchinae (Alonso-Zarazaga and Lyal 1999). It is distributed in Southeast Asia (Riedel et al. 2014), Australia (Riedel and Tänzler 2016) and Melanesia, with its center of diversity in New Guinea (Riedel et al. 2010; Tänzler et al. 2012, Riedel et al. 2013b). Despite Trigonopterus being recorded from the remote islands of Fiji (Zimmerman 1938b), Samoa (Marshall 1931) and New Caledonia (Heller 1916), only one species has been described from the Bismarck Archipelago to date, i.e. Trigonopterus pembertoni (Zimmerman 1938a) from New Ireland. Here we describe four new species from the island of New Britain. Presumably, there are many additional new species to be found on this island. Unfortunately, large expanses of low-elevation forests in New Britain have been converted to oil-palm plantations, highlighting the significance of documenting the insect fauna before the remaining forests are gone.”

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