The Millennium Falcon
The millennium falcon, Schistocerca millenia, is a member of the Acrididae family, and a close relative of the desert locust. Due to its incredible size (a wingspan of thirty centimeters (~11 inches), and a body length of twenty centimeters (~8 inches)), it is one of the largest insect species of modern times. When it is in full flight, it can easily be mistaken for a bird of prey.
Contrary to most species of locusts, the millennium falcon has an extended larval stage. Indeed, most individuals spend their entire life in a larval state, even for reproduction. For reasons that are as of yet unknown, the millennium falcon only pupates once every one thousand years. During that event, its population explodes dramatically, and during one month, there is an accelerated cycle of reproduction and migration, which allows the millennium falcon to spread to new territories. After that rapid population growth, it then goes back to living as larvae for the next one thousand years. The millennium falcon is believe to be the cause of the plague of locusts mentioned in the old testament, since the time-frame corresponds more or less to the population cycle of this uncommon insect.
Scientists who have been studying the millennium falcon believe that its extreme life-cycle is a way to avoid predation of its adult state, and increases overall fitness, since the larval state live exclusively underground, and thus have less predators than the flying adult form. In addition, due to the extremely long cycle it takes before the adult stage appears, no predators are able to adapt to it and anticipate the explosive population growth that occurs at that time.
Although it has been considered a plague by many in the past, precise analysis of the ecosystems in which the millennium falcon lives has shown that the “plague” of locusts that appears every one thousand years is actually highly beneficial to species diversity and overall biomass, since it represents a bountiful harvest for a number of predators. In addition, the harsh reduction of plant biomass creates an opportunity for underrepresented species, since it level the playing-field and creates new niches.
In western culture in particular, the millennium falcon has been largely ignored, mainly due to its sporadic apparition. However, it has, in some uncanny ways, influenced some people, who thought that it was a mythical cousin of the falcon (bird). One of the most well-known admires of the insect is, of course, George Lucas.
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