Kosovar biologist calls newly found insect after coronavirus

Kosovar biologist calls newly found insect after coronavirus
Halil Ibrahimi, 44, associate professor at the faculty of natural sciences at Pristina university, speaks to the media in Pristina on Friday, April 16, 2021. Restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic helped Kosovar biologist Ibrahimi sit down and complete his research, naming a new insect after the virus and raised public awareness against pollution of river basins. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Kosovar biologist Halil Ibrahimi believes the pandemic restrictions haven't all been bad—as a result of them, he completed his research, raised public awareness of the pollution of river basins and named a newly discovered insect after the virus.

Ibrahimi, 44, had spent years working on a research report on a caddisfly found in Kosovo's western Bjeshket e Nemuna (Accursed Mountains) . That species now bears the name Potamophylax coronavirus.

As an associate professor of the Natural Sciences Faculty at Pristina University, Ibrahimi collected the species, which turned out to be endemic to the national park, 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of the capital Pristina, and found it was quite different from the other species in the Balkans.

It is considerably smaller, and lives in a different habitat, in open, high-altitude zones, some 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) above sea level.

He announced the new name he had chosen for the species in a scientific magazine this month.

"Coronavirus was the most vivid thing during the time when the species was discovered," he said.

During his research, Ibrahimi also noticed that the Lumbardhi i Deçanit River, where the new species was found, has severely deteriorated over recent years due to the construction of a hydropower plant.

Kosovar biologist calls newly found insect after coronavirus
Halil Ibrahimi, 44, associate professor at the faculty of natural sciences at Pristina university looks under a microscope at an insect named Potamophylax coronavirus, inside a lab in Pristina on Friday, April 16, 2021. Restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic helped Kosovar biologist Ibrahimi sit down and complete his research, naming a new insect after the virus and raised public awareness against pollution of river basins. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Kosovo and the Balkan countries have a long history of environmental pollution of all kinds, from pumped directly into rivers to deforestation and mismanagement of hydropower plants.

"It has the same effect on the species living in the rivers as the coronavirus is causing to humankind these days," Ibrahimi said.

The overall environmental situation in Kosovo has worsened over recent years, with increased construction, traffic and , as well as the government's efforts to promote small hydropower plants as an alternative energy source.

"Uncontrolled use of water resources and damage to river beds still remains one of the forms of degradation of our water resources," according to a report on Kosovo's environment published last year.

People should "rethink their attitude toward the environment" because these insects are "the first barrier before the pollution comes to the humans," Ibrahimi said.

  • Kosovar biologist calls newly found insect after coronavirus
    Halil Ibrahimi, 44, associate professor at the faculty of natural sciences at Pristina university looks under a microscope at an insect named Potamophylax coronavirus, inside a lab in Pristina on Friday, April 16, 2021. Restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic helped Kosovar biologist Ibrahimi sit down and complete his research, naming a new insect after the virus and raised public awareness against pollution of river basins. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
  • Kosovar biologist calls newly found insect after coronavirus
    Halil Ibrahimi, 44, associate professor at the faculty of natural sciences at Pristina university, searches his net for insects near a polluted stream in Siceve, Kosovo, on Friday, April 16, 2021. Restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic helped Kosovar biologist Ibrahimi sit down and complete his research, naming a new insect after the virus and raised public awareness against pollution of river basins. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
  • Kosovar biologist calls newly found insect after coronavirus
    In this handout photo provided by Halil Ibrahimi, insects named Potamophylax coronavirus are mating on Oct. 24, 2020. Restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic helped Kosovar biologist Ibrahimi sit down and complete his research, naming a new insect after the virus and raised public awareness against pollution of river basins. (Halil Ibrahimi via AP)
  • Kosovar biologist calls newly found insect after coronavirus
    Halil Ibrahimi, 44, associate professor at the faculty of natural sciences at Pristina University looks under a microscope an insect named Potamophylax coronavirus inside a lab in Pristina on Friday, April 16, 2021. Restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic helped Kosovar biologist Ibrahimi sit down and complete his research, naming a new insect after the virus and raised public awareness against pollution of river basins. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

"They are the first indicators that something is going wrong in the environment ... in order to be prepared for the impacting directly on ourselves."

Now that the virus and the insect are forever linked via the name, "the institutions must undertake measures to stop this degradation to the environment, and people must start considering these insect species as part of their own life," Ibrahimi said.


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Pandemic-inspired discoveries: New insect species from Kosovo named after the Coronavirus

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