With Episode Eight in the ever-increasing Star Wars franchise scheduled to hit screens later this year, fandom is alive and well. It's no surprise, then, that scientists have named dozens of species after their favourite Star Wars characters over the years – in fact, earlier this year, a gibbon in China was named after Luke Skywalker. So, in honour of May the fourth (unofficial Star Wars Day), here are some of our favourite Star Wars-inspired species names. May the fourth be with you!

The name: Agathidium vaderi

The creature: A. vaderi is a species of slime mould beetle whose broad, shiny head reminded entomologists of Darth Vader’s helmet. Like other members of their genus, the tiny 3mm insects feed on – you guessed it – appetising slime molds. The species hails from North Carolina.

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Image: A slime-mold beetle of the genus Agathidium, closely related to new species, by Frances Fawcett (left). Darth Vader by Ed's Toy Box, Flickr.

 

The name: Aptostichus sarlacc

The creature: In a nod to that terrifying, multi-stomached creature that awaits victims in the Great Pit of Carkoon, the name Aptostichus sarlacc belongs, quite fittingly, to a trapdoor spider that inhabits the Mojave Desert. Like many other trapdoor spiders, these ambush predators shun webs in favour of subterranean burrows with hinged doors, where they wait to pounce on unsuspecting prey. 

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Image: Jason Bond, Auburn University

 

The name: Darthvaderum

The creature: “When I saw the SEM [scanning electron micrograph] of the gnathosoma I immediately thought of Darth Vader, evil antihero of Star Wars,” said Glenn S. Hunt, who first discovered this genus of tiny "beetle mites". And looking at them here, we can sort of see what he meant.

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SEM images of various parts of Darthvaderum mites that led to their Darth Vader-inspired name. Image: Hunt, Glenn S., 1996

 

The name: Han solo

The creature: Officially, this trilobite (a type of extinct marine arthropod) fossil found near China's northern Hunan Province is named after the Han Chinese, and the species name solo was added because it was believed to be the last surviving member of its family. In reality, Samuel Turvey, who named the trilobite, admitted that H. solo got its moniker after a dare from his friends, who claimed that most of the character names in Star Wars sounded like scientific names, anyway. Turvey also named a species of trilobite Geragnostus waldorfstatleri, after the grumpy old men from "The Muppet Show".

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Artist recreation of Han solo (left), and the fossil of a related Agnostid trilobite (right). Images: ApokryltarosParent Géry/Wikimedia Commons

 

The name: Peckoltia greedoi

The creature: The scientist who discovered P. greedoi named the species after Greedo, claiming the suckermouth armoured catfish showed a “remarkable resemblance” to the enigmatic Rodian bounty hunter. The animal, which boasts large, dark eyes, a sucker mouth and protruding bristles, was first discovered along Brazil's Gurupi River.

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Image: Armbruster JW, Werneke DC, Tan M (2015) | Kristina Alexanderson, Flickr

 

The name: Yoda purpurata

The creature:  The alien-looking "purple Yoda", so named because the flaps on its head resemble Yoda’s iconic ears, is a species of acorn worm found 1.5 miles beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Much like the wise old Jedi, purple Yoda worms are elusive – and a potential source of untapped knowledge. Scientists think these deep-sea acorn worms may provide us with clues about the evolutionary link between vertebrates and invertebrates.

 

The name:  Calponia harrisonfordi

The creature: The spider C. harrisonfordi was named by arachnologist Norman Platnick as a thank-you to Harrison Ford after the actor narrated a documentary for London’s Natural History Museum. The tiny 5mm spider, found in California, was discovered back in 1993. (Ford also has a species of ant, Pheidole harrisonfordi, named after him.)

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Top header image: Musgo Dumio_Momio, Flickr