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Armbruster names catfish species after Star Wars character

Published: 03/16/2015

Video by: Phillip Coxwell

Jonathan Armbruster, biological sciences professor and curator of fishes for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, has named a previously unknown species of catfish in honor of the enigmatic Star Wars fan favorite, Greedo.

The suckermouth armored catfish, Peckoltia greedoi, was found along the Gurupi River in Brazil and is known physically for its large, dark eyes, sucker mouth and protruding bristles.

Armbruster, along with David Werneke, Milton Tan and Chris Hamilton, all of the Department of Biological Sciences, were examining the specimen for characteristics when they made the connection.

“Chris looked at the specimen and said ‘that looks like that guy from Star Wars,’” said Armbruster. “After a little prodding, I realized he was talking about Greedo. We then knew what the name had to be. The Peckoltia greedoi does bare a striking resemblance to Greedo.”

Greedo, a bounty hunter from the spaceport Mos Espa, was promptly killed by Han Solo who had presumably shot first in a brief scene from “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.”

“As a 7-year-old kid, I watched Star Wars in the theatre and it was a life-changing experience for me,” said Armbruster. “I became a lifelong fan, and I now share that with my son. Greedo has always been a personal favorite of mine.”

Armbruster has described more than 40 species of fishes, including a minnow found in the Auburn area. Although this is his first species to name after a character, he has honored friends and colleagues 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,” said Armbruster. “I’ve also had former students name species for me.”

As a taxonomist, Armbruster looks at the systematics of fishes, or the naming of species and higher groups, and sees how they are related to one another.

Aside from the Peckoltia greedoi, Armbruster also descirbed the P. ephippiata and P. lujani specimens collected in Brazil and Venezuela through his National Science Foundation All Catfish Species Inventory (ACSI) grant.

“In biology, taxonomy is probably the most important science,” said Armbruster. “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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