Experts from the Faculty of Science at Masaryk University have chosen to bestow the name of famous naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough on a new parasitic flatworm species. Besides the newly discovered Cichlidogyrus attenboroughi, they also found another species in the gills of deep-water fish, which has been named after the city of Brno: Cichlidogyrus brunnensis.
When it comes to picking names for new species, scientists basically get a free hand. “We had been considering naming a new species after Sir David Attenborough for some time, but we thought that this year is particularly fitting for doing so, as he is celebrating his 90th birthday,” says Nikol Kmentová, a PhD student who took part in the discovery together with her colleagues from the Austrian University of Graz.
The newly discovered species of parasitic worms, whose description has been published in the specialist journal Parasites & Vectors, belong to the Monogenea group and infect deep-water fish. They are several millimetres long and are only found on fish from the Cichlidae family, who are, in their turn, only found in Lake Tanganyika. Kmentová was able to obtain them from samples of gills from eighteen fish.
“We are trying to point out that the biodiversity of Lake Tanganyika is made up not only of well-known and documented groups, but also of other species including parasites, which have so far failed to attract any widespread scientific attention despite their important role in individual ecosystems,” says Maarteen Vanhove, a Belgian parasitologist and the director of the study, who also works at Masaryk University and regularly participates in expeditions to Lake Tanganyika.