What do three species of fungi, a weevil, a katydid, a shrimp, and a wasp have in common? Nothing, except for their names. All of them were named in reference to COVID-19, the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
When my collaborator André De Kesel and I were planning to write a checklist of Laboulbeniomycetes in Belgium and the Netherlands with the description of a few new species, we didn’t have a pandemic in mind. Project “checklist” started in September 2019, when I visited Meise Botanic Garden for two weeks of research (funded by SYNTHESYS+). Later, I was back at Purdue University where I was a postdoc, we corresponded by email about our progress—discussing things such as new DNA extractions, phylogenetic analyses, morphological descriptions, and (lots and lots of back-and-forth) corrections to the checklist. And then the pandemic hit. Two major consequences for our work were that I could no longer do molecular work in the laboratory, and that we both had no more physical access to our respective libraries.
Even though André and I had a provisional name in mind for our new Laboulbenia species (“dichotoma” referring to the successive dichotomies leading to the outer appendage being composed of 4–6(–8) branches), we wanted the name to reflect the challenges we faced in finishing this paper. This is how Laboulbenia quarantenae came into existence. And, we were not alone. A handful of species were described and named in reference to COVID-19 by researchers from different fields around the world, and I am sure more species will follow. Below I am listing these species. I will try to keep an eye on more taxa named after the upside-down world we’ve found ourselves living in since COVID-19 emerged. If you know of species (or higher taxa) that I’ve missed, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at danny [dot] haelewaters [at] gmail [dot] com.
Dendrostoma is a recent genus of diaporthalean fungi (diaporthalean meaning that it is placed in the order Diaporthales, class Sordariomycetes, phylum Ascomycota) that can be reliably identified based on their morphology but also using host association information. Milan Samarakoon and colleagues found dead branches of beech (genus Fagus) in China, with a perithecial fungus that, based on morphology or molecular phylogenetic data, could not be assigned to any of the 20 existing species in Dendrostoma. And that is when D. covidicola was introduced.
covidicola: referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, named as a tribute to the battle against COVID-19
Citation: Samarakoon MC, Promputtha I, Liu J-K. 2021. Dendrostoma covidicola sp. nov. (Erythrogloeaceae, Diaporthales) on Fagus sylvatica from Sichuan Province, China. Phytotaxa 483(2): 85-94. https://doi.org/10.11646/phytotaxa.483.2.1
This xylariaceous fungus (phylum Ascomycota, class Sordariomycetes, order Xylariales, family Xylariaceae) was described by Pedro W. Crous (Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute, The Netherlands) and colleagues in April 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. Both genus and species names refer to COVID-19:
Diabolocovidia: composed of diabolicus = devilish and covid, referring to COVID-19
claustri: referring to the closure or lockdown experienced in many countries during the pandemic
quarantenae: from quarantena, which was used in 14th–15th century Venetian language for a forty-day isolation period
Citation: Haelewaters D, De Kesel A. 2020. Checklist of thallus-forming Laboulbeniomycetes from Belgium and the Netherlands, including Hesperomyces halyziae and Laboulbenia quarantenae spp. nov. MycoKeys 71: 23-86. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.71.53421
Oxymorus (phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Coleoptera, family Curculionidae) is a new genus of weevils with nine species, all from South Africa. Weevils are those beetles with elongated mouthparts. Representatives of the genus Oxymorus also have long noses but – curiously – are part of a subfamily with mostly “short-nosed weevils”. Oxymorus johnprinei is a bit of an outlier in this list because it wasn’t named directly after the pandemic. Described by Roman Borovec (Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Czech Republic) and Massimo Meregalli (Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy).
johnprinei: named in memory of the late John Prine (1946–2020), an American folk singer and songwriter who passed away due to the Coronavirus
Citation: Borovec R, Meregalli M. 2020. Oxymorus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Entiminae: Oosomini), a new genus with nine new species from South Africa. European Journal of Entomology 117: 442-462. https://doi.org/10.14411/eje.2020.048
Periclimenaeus is a genus consisting of 83 species of small shrimps (phylum Arthropoda, class Malacostraca, order Decapoda, family Palaemonidae) that occur in temperate and (mostly) tropical waters. Most Periclimanaeus shrimps dwell inside a variety of hosts, including sponges and ascidian tunicates, which protect against predators and may even serve as food to the shrimps. South Korean Periclimanaeus shrimps are virtually unknown, and when Jin-Ho Park and Sammy De Grave from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History collected some shrimps during scuba diving (note: I want to study shrimps and go out for scuba diving!), they came across two species new for science. One of them was named P. karantina, for two reasons:
karantina: from the Greek karantina (καραντίνα, quarantine), referring to the lifestyle of the new species within the host ascidian species; also alluding to the quarantine of human society due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), during which time the paper was written
Citation: Park J-H, De Grave S. 2021. Two new species and a further country record of the caridean shrimp genus Periclimenaeus Borradaile, 1915 from Korea (Decapoda: Palaemonidae). Zoological Studies 60: 1. https://doi.org/10.6620/ZS.2021.60-01
Segestes (phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Orthoptera, family Tettigoniidae) is a genus of bush crickets or katydids with 12 described species, including the new one with its pandemic-related name. This may be my favorite name thus far because it relates to feelings of pain and anxiety, which so many of us have experienced during the lockdown measures, with associated travel restrictions and closed borders. Described by Ming Kai Tan (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, France) and Rodzay bin Haji Abdul Wahab (Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Borneo).
nostosalgos: with reference to homecoming (nostos = homecoming in Greek) and pain (algos = pain, grief or distress in Greek); dedicated to those who are far away from home during the COVID-19 pandemic (and at any difficult time in general)
Citation: Tan MK, Wahab RHA. 2020. New taxa and notes on palm and false-leaf katydids (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Sexavaini; Pseudophyllinae) from Brunei Darussalam. Zootaxa 4808(2): zootaxa.4808.2.4. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4808.2.4
covida: named after COVID-19 (Coronavirus) because the taxon was described during the outbreak of this virus in Mexico
Citation: Khalaim AI, Ruíz-Cancino E. 2020. Contribution to the taxonomy of Mexican Tersilochinae (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae), with descriptions of five new species. ZooKeys 974: 1-21. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.974.54536