The water-dwelling mollusc, Travunijana djokovici – or T. djokovici for short, was discovered by biologists in a spring deep within a system of caves and sinkholes in Montenegro.
The snail, with a milky-white shell in the shape of an elongated cone, doesn’t look much like the Serbian superstar – who has been number one for a record total of 316 weeks.
But the researchers behind the find say they decided on using the tennis champ’s namesake “to acknowledge his inspiring enthusiasm and energy.”
In order to find the specimen Slovak cave biologist Jozef Grego and Montenegrin zoologist Vladimir Pesic of the University of Montenegro delved down into the cave system – known as the Dinaric karst – near Podgorica, the capital of the mountainous Bulkan country.
Dr Grego 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.”
The creature is specially adapted to live in the underground habitats which are often totally inaccessible to humans.
It is part of Hydrobiidae, a very diverse family of tiny snails – also known as mud snails – inhabiting fresh or slightly salty water in subterranean ecosystems.
Mysteriously, the snail is the first member of the genus Travunijana so far to be discovered in the country’s massive Skadar Lake basin, and the only one found outside of the Trebisnjica river basin in Herzegovina – Montenegro’s northern neighbour.
How they got there, the researchers say, remains an enigma.
The discovery was published in the journal Subterranean Biology.