A green, shiny beetle that is smaller than a fingernail has been discovered on an Indonesian island and named ‘Yoda’ due to its uncanny likeness to the diminutive Star Wars Jedi master.
Trigonopterus yoda is one of more than 100 new species of insect discovered and formally names in the thriving rainforest.
Meanwhile, a group of three species were named after Asterix, Obelix and Idefix – the main characters in the French comics series The Adventures of Asterix.
Naturally, Trigonopterus obelix is larger and more roundish than his two ‘friends’.
Other curious names include T. artemis and T. satyrus, named after two Greek mythological characters: Artemis, the goddess of hunting and nature and Satyr, a male nature spirit inhabiting remote localities.
Three others have been named after the famous scientists Charles Darwin, father of the theory of evolution, and DNA pioneers, Francis Crick and James Watson.
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A green, shiny beetle (left) discovered on an Indonesian island has been named Yoda due to its uncanny likeness to the diminutive Star Wars character (right). Trigonopterus yoda is one of more than 100 new species of insect discovered and formally names in the thriving rainforest
The small stature of the beetles made identification difficult.
Distinguishing the animals apart and knowing whether a new species had been discovered or not included DNA sequencing.
Coming up with novel names for such a large number was almost as taxing as finding them.
In 2016 a weevil discovered by members of the same team in Papua New Guinea was given the name of Star Wars’ Chewbacca.
This was in reference to the insect’s characteristically dense scales reminiscent of Chewie’s hairiness.
They are among 103 new species of the creepy crawlies that have been found in the remote rainforests of Sulawesi.
They are among 103 new species of the creepy crawlies that have been found in the remote rainforests of Sulawesi
The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal ZooKeys, say there may be more of beetles needing to be discovered and named
Dense mountain forest of Central Sulawesi, where some of the new species have been found. The island is covered by lowland rainforests, although much of this has been cleared
They are all members of a tiny family of weevils known as Trigonopterus – measuring just a few millimetres long.
Only a single member had been identified on the idyllic paradise since 1885 but the island is renowned for its enigmatic fauna.
This includes the deer-pig (babirusa) and the midget buffalo. But small insects have remained largely unexplored.
Lead author Dr Alexander Riedel, of the Natural History Museum Karlsruhe, Germany, said: ‘We had found hundreds of species on the neighboring islands of New Guinea, Borneo and Java – why should Sulawesi with its lush habitats remain an empty space?’
The island is covered by lowland rainforests, although much of this has been cleared.
The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal ZooKeys, say there may be more of beetles needing to be discovered and named.
Raden Pramesa Narakusumo, curator of beetles at the Indonesian Research Centre for Biology, said: ‘Our survey is not yet complete and possibly we have just scratched the surface.
‘Sulawesi is geologically complex and many areas have never been searched for these small beetles.’
WILL GLOBAL WARMING CAUSE SPECIES TO SHRINK?
A study conducted by the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada found that over the last century, the beetles in the region have shrunk.
By looking at eight species of beetle and measuring the animals from past and present they found that some beetles were adapting to a reduced body size.
The data also showed that the larger beetles were shrinking, but the smaller ones were not.
Around 50 million years ago the Earth warmed by three degrees Celsius (5.4°F) and as a result, animal species at the time shrunk by 14 per cent.
Another warming event around 55 million years ago – called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) – warmed the earth by up to eight degrees Celsius (14.4°F).
In this instance, animal species of the time shrunk by up to a third.
Woolly mammoths were a victim of warming climate, shrinking habitat and increased hunting from a growing early-human population which drove them to extinction – along with many large animals
Shrinking in body size is seen from several global warming events.
With the global temperatures set to continue to rise, it is expected the average size of most animals will decrease.
As well as global warming, the world has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of large animals.
So called ‘megafauna’ are large animals that go extinct. With long life-spans and relatively small population numbers, they are less able to adapt to rapid change as smaller animals that reproduce more often.
Often hunted for trophies or for food, large animals like the mastadon, mammoths and the western black rhino, which was declared extinct in 2011, have been hunted to extinction.