Scientists have described a new species of aquatic snail from a karstic spring in Montenegro and named it after Novak Djokovic, a famous Serbian tennis player.
Named Travunijana djokovici, the newly-discovered snail species measures about 2-3 mm across.
It has a milky-white shell in the shape of an elongated cone, and is adapted to live in the underground habitats.
It belongs to Hydrobiidae, a very diverse family of small to tiny snails inhabiting fresh or brackish water, including caves and subterranean habitats.
University of Montenegro’s Professor Vladimir Pešić and Slovak biospeleologist Jozef Grego collected Travunijana djokovici from Vriješko Vrelo spring, a karstic spring near Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, during a field trip in April 2019.
“To discover some of the world’s rarest animals that inhabit the unique underground habitats of the Dinaric karst, to reach inaccessible cave and spring habitats and for the restless work during processing of the collected material, you need Novak Djokovic’s energy and enthusiasm,” the researchers said.
“Travunijana djokovici is the first member of the genus Travunijana so far to be discovered in the Skadar Lake basin,” they added.
“It is also the only one found outside of the Trebisnjica river basin in Herzegovina, which points to the enigmatic distributional range of these snails across the Dinaric underground habitats.”
“Where they came from, and how, remains a mystery.”
The scientists suggest Travunijana djokovici should be considered as Vulnerable following IUCN’s Red List categories.
“Subterranean ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to human-driven environmental changes, and, being obscure, they’re often overlooked during conservation efforts,” they said.
The discovery of Travunijana djokovici is reported in a paper in the journal Subterranean Biology.
J. Grego & V. Pešić. 2021. First record of stygobiotic gastropod genus Travunijana Grego & Glöer, 2019 (Mollusca, Hydrobiidae) from Montenegro. Subterranean Biology 38: 65-76; doi: 10.3897/subtbiol.38.64762