Hitting a ball may not be on its list of skills, but a rare snail species discovered in Montenegro has been named after Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic.
Travunijana djokovici – which has been classed as Vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species – was found in 2019 at a spring near the country’s capital Podgorica.
The scientists said they named new freshwater snail species after Djokovic “to acknowledge his inspiring enthusiasm and energy”.
With a milky-white shell shaped like an elongated cone, T. djokovici is adapted to live in the underground habitats of a karst – a type of landscape where bedrock dissolves to create sinkholes, sinking streams, caves and springs.
The tiny gastropod was found by Jozef Grego and Vladimir Pesic, both from the University of Montenegro, who published their research in the journal Subterranean Biology.
The researchers said: “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’s energy and enthusiasm.”
However, they added that where the snail comes from still remains a mystery.
T. djokovici is part a diverse family of tiny mud snails known as Hydrobiidae, inhabiting fresh water in caves and subterranean habitats.
The experts said that subterranean ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to human-driven environmental changes, and are often overlooked during conservation efforts because they are so obscure.