Star Wars-loving scientists name new species after Luke Skywalker

The Force is strong with a new gibbon species believed to have been discovered by Chinese researchers.

Previously it was thought there were two species of hoolock gibbons, the western and eastern hoolocks, living in remote forests on Myanmar's border.

But new research published on Wednesday suggests there are three, and the scientists behind the study want the third to be named after Star Wars' main character.

The Skywalker hoolock has been recognised as separate from the eastern and western hoolocks thanks to genetic analysis and its distinctive brow and beard, according to the study published in the American Journal of Primatology.

Its scientific name is Hoolock tianxing - Chinese for "heaven's movement" or "skywalker".

Mark Hamill, who plays the gibbons' namesake in the Star Wars films, was thrilled by the announcement.

"First the Pez dispenser, then the Underoos & U.S. postage stamp ... now this," he tweeted.

It's estimated there are less than 200 of the Skywalker gibbons in the wild and the researchers recommend it be classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List.