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The Biology of the Sarlacc According to a Real Biologist

(Image: Lucasfilm)

Today, several scientists and science journalists published in-world scientific descriptions of Tatooine, the homeworld of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.

Joe Hanson holds a doctorate in biology and hosts the PBS show It's Okay to Be Smart. For his contribution, Hanson examined the cutest creature on the planet: the Sarlacc. He describes his expedition, during which he was accompanied by a terrified C-3P0. Hanson writes about the likely morphology of the creature:

At its posterior end, deep beneath the sand, extend many feeding tentacles, drawing and storing nutrients from the surrounding soil like a taproot. To my knowledge, this hybridized organ arrangement, both plant and animal in nature, has never before been reported. Reports of sarlacc longevity extend to 50,000 years, although isotopic analysis has yet to verify these claims due to the extreme danger involved in collecting even the smallest tissue sample.

Despite that, the sarlacc’s supposed longevity and plant-like external morphology are reminiscent of Earth’s 2,000+ year-old Welwitschia, a desert-dwelling plant whose tentacle-like leaf extensions attach to a deep central taproot core, owing to its longevity in Earth’s own harsh desert environments.

The complete absence of subterranean waste in local soil and groundwater samples suggests that the sarlacc may lack an anus, and combined with the observed anterior mouth morphology and radial body symmetry, the closest terrestrial species useful for anatomical comparison might be the sea anemone, suggesting that the sarlacc either shares a common ancestor, or displays a convergent body plan with the terrestrial phylum Cnidaria.

Here are other articles in the series about the science of Tatooine:

Why a Bunch of Science Writers Are Writing About a Fictional Planet – Matt Shipman

Tatooine Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – David Ng

Functional Anatomy of Tatooine Megafauna (Hyperspace Transmission Received) – John Hutchinson

Science of Tatooine: Water – Adrienne Roehrich

Cascading planetary-wide ecosystem effects of the extirpation of apex predatory Krayt dragons on Tatooine — David Shiffman

The Limits of Animal Life on Tatooine — Maggie Koerth-Baker

Tatooine’s tangled bank – plants evolve in a galaxy far, far away — Malcolm Campbell


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