Star Wars and the Analysis of its Creatures

There are many bizarre creatures that pop up in the Star Wars universe. I thought in celebration of May 4th we could take a look at a few of these organisms and their possible Earth bound dopplegangers. WARNING: major nerd alert

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Taunton

downloadThe tauntaun first appeared in Empire Strikes back when Luke and his tauntaun are captured by the Wampa (cave dwelling creature). Han solo then sets out to rescue Luke on another tauntaun. Han’s tauntaun dies and is sliced to keep luke warm. Earth mammals have a core body temperature of 36C to 39C. This is much warmer than the night ambient air temperature of Hoth (according to star wars nerds it can get down to -60C) so good thinking Han.

The tauntaun appears to be a bipedal (walks on two legs) version of a goat crossed with a lizard. I say lizard because it is classified as a lizard by the star wars fanbase. I love star wars but classifying a tauntaun as a lizard is ridiculous. Lizards are ectotherms. This means they do not produce their own body heat and rely on external heat sources to warm themselves. This is why we see lizards and snakes sunning themselves on the road side. If the tauntaun did in fact have a lizard’s physiology there is no way it would of kept Luke warm while Han put up the shelter. Also it would not of been physically capable of movement during such extreme cold.

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Sarlacc

The sarlac made it’s first appearance when Luke, Han and Chewie were going to be fed to it in Return of the Jedi. It inhabited the Great pit of Carkoon in the dune sea. So from this information we know it is a desert dwelling carnivore.

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Desert dwelling creatures are specialists that have evolved to cope with extreme conditions. They have to overcome the obstacles of: sparse food, little to no rain and intense heat. The sarlac seems to have addressed all these issues very well. It dwells primarily underground which means it has lowered its exposure to the elements. In the hottest parts of Australia (e.g.  Coober-Pedy and Cloncurry) humans have built houses underground for the cooling effect.

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Coober-Pedy underground house

C3PO said, “In its belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a…thousand years.” The sarlacc must be able to slo
w down its metabolism which, has the effect of decreasing its nutritional requirements. If prey makes infrequent appearances you have to do your best to make do with what you’ve got. So by slowing down its digestive process the sarlacc has increased the benefits it would receive from a single meal.

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Tortoises have a slow metabolism but they also are very slow movers

The pit in which it dwells reminds me very much of that of an antlion larvae. Antlions are incredibly terrifying. They normally inhabit sandy, sheltered areas such as at the base of a tree. The reason they require sand is that they build cone shaped traps. The antlion then positions itself under the sand in the centre of the trap. The trap is designed so an ant can walk up over the side of the trap and then fall over the otherside and are incapable of getting back out of the trap.  The antlion can sense tumbling grains of sands that preclude an ant falling into its trap. Once an ant has been trapped, it grabs the ant in its powerful jaws and eats its dinner. If you want to have nightmares watch this video:

Wookies

Unlike many of the other creatures that exist in star wars, it is potentiallyconceivable for Wookies to exist. No I’m not saying they do, it’s just from a scientific viewpoint they seem to make the most sense. What I mean is that they’re more likely to exist than a lizard that lives on an planet permanently covered in ice.

Wookies appear to be a humanoid bear. In fact, George Lucas based the Wookies off the folk tales of yeti, sasquatch, bigfoot and yowi. So let’s just ignore the probability of these creatures existing without our knowledge, and look at the potential for them to exist from an evolutionary standpoint.

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Let’s start with the height and weight. Wookies are 2.2-2.5m tall and weigh between 100 and 150kg. That is one big biped. The average human basketball player is 2m tall and weighs 100kg. Assuming the smaller and lighter wookies are female then Wookie body shape is fairly comparable to that of humans. If the wookies were greater than 2.5m tall I would say definitely impossible. This is because the forces placed on joints and organs become too great. The tallest people in the world could probably tell you all about their health issues from being so tall. Quadrapeds (four legged animals) however, are able to spread their weight across four limbs whereas bipeds have all their weight stacked over their feet. That means that there is some serious downforce on your poor knees.  Taller people often have to have knee and hip replacements at a young age due to the immense joint pressure.

hanchew1Okay now the fur. Is it likely that a sentient animal is that furry? As humans evolved we seemed to ‘lose’ our fur. There are several theories as to why humans appear to be less hairy than our closest relatives. is it just something that happened along the way and had nothing to do with our advancement? Or is the hair loss a direct result of our increased intelligence? Either way, the wookies would have gone through a separate series of evolutionary pressures and remaining furry may of been an advantage. For one thing they don’t need to wear a coat even on hoth.

Chewbacca also displays immense strength. Keep in mind that he is a very large creature so an increase in strength is probably within reason. Also, Chewie was often Han’s muscle in the smuggling operation so he may be stronger than his compatriots.

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Rancor

Could a rancor exist? I’m going to say no. Why? Well… just look at it. Nope. remeber how I was discussing the pressure placed on a bipeds limbs if it grows too tall? Slim and 2.5m tall is one thing. Stocky, unevenly distributed weight and 5m tall is another entirely. In the movie the rancor was created by a rod operated puppet enhanced by CGI. I am somewhat in awe that the puppet did not topple face first due to the poor distribution of weight. The forearms are not to scale with the shoulders so i doubt that a living version would be able to lift its arms off the ground.

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On earth tails tend to have five purposes:

  1. counter-balance (kangaroos)
  2. communication (dogs)
  3. prehensile so it acts as a fifth limb (spider-monkeys)
  4. brush away flies (horses)
  5. flight (wedge-tailed eagle)

The rancor’s tail is not big enough to be a counterbalance. It is obviously not prehensile and is too far from the body to be used to brush away flies. The rancor would be unable to fly so that rules out another use. The only option is that the tail would be used in communication. I doubt it though as the rancor strikes me as a bit of a loner and the tail is very small in comparison to its body size.

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Bantha

Bantha are found on Tattoine and appear to be a desert dwelling cross between a yak and a wooly mammoth. They also seem to have similar uses to our cattle. They are used for their milk and meat and their fur is used for clothing.

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Luke Skywalker drinks bantha milk

Lots of and lots of fur tends to be associated with cold climates because it’s a great insulator. Bantha are incredibly furry and live in the desert… Yes there are animal with fur that live in the desert but none that are walking shag pile carpet. They would not be able to regulate their heat properly with a such thick layer of fur. There is a very good reason why huskies are not found in the desert.

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Yes Star Wars is amazing but the animals are not overly realistic just like parsecs is a measure of distance not time and there is no sound in space. Earth bound animals are pretty fantastic already so I can understand why it’s difficult to improve upon them whilst remaining within the bounds of reality.

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