Scientists Have Named an ‘Alien’ Predatory Flatworm After COVID

COVID-19 has infected every single component of our lives over the last two decades. The ways we work, engage with our surroundings, and see family members and pals have all been considerably altered during the ongoing pandemic.


By much the worst have been the fatalities of all the beloved kinds the illness has taken from us. Now, partly in recognition of the people today lost, researchers have named a freshly discovered species of hammerhead flatworm Humbertium covidum.

“The unique identify covidum was picked out as homage to the numerous casualties globally of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the crew, led by the National Museum of Natural Heritage, France parasitologist Jean-Lou Justine, writes in their new paper.

“Furthermore, a substantial component of this study was written during the lockdowns.”

Hammerhead flatworms (acknowledged as the genus Bipalium) are a kind of predatory land worm with a distinctive hammer-formed head. Several of them have utilised us and our like of vegetation to sneak a experience all about the environment, and lots of are invasive species in the US and Europe.

H. covidum is tiny, all-around 3 centimeters long (just about an inch), and metallic black in coloration with no stripes or other ornamentation, which is exceptional for flatworms. It was located in a pair of gardens in France and Italy.

The researchers also explain the worms’ genitals in considerable element, which is an critical system for telling apart the various species and subfamilies. All flatworm species are hermaphroditic, so their replica can be either sexual or asexual.

Humbertium covidum. (Pierre Gros)

This minor COVID creature wasn’t the only hammerhead flatworm found out by the workforce. They also located one particular on a French island known as Mayotte, ensuing in the species name Diversibipalium mayottensis. This just one is also around 3 cm extensive, and sports activities a fairly blue-green speckle (which the researchers get in touch with a “dim turquoise glitter”) about a brown base.

Regrettably, these flatworms likely failed to initially call France and Italy dwelling. Utilizing subsequent-era sequencing to analyze exactly where the two species have been in the larger family members tree, the workforce implies that each species are from overseas – H. covidum from somewhere in Asia, and D. mayottensis from Madagascar.


H. covidum is possibly a species originating from Asia and is an alien species in Europe,” the staff writes.

“Irrespective of whether it will turn into an invasive species requirements to be monitored in the upcoming.”

Diversibipalium mayottensis. (Laurent Charles)

These are not the only flatworms that have effectively migrated to other international locations. Other species like Obama nungara in Europe (at first from Argentina), Platydemus manokwari in the US (from New Guinea) and Bipalium kewense in France (from Southeast Asia) all hitched a journey by way of the plant trade from just one location to another.

The crew utilized genetic sequencing on the tummy contents of H. covidum to explore the hammerhead worm experienced been taking in slugs and snails, which could have an effect on the ecosystem of the region.

Curiously, aside from a few gardens (two in France and a third in Italy) in which H. covidum was identified concerning 2013 and 2019, there have been confined cases of the worm being discovered somewhere else.

“In 2019, an intense campaign on Twitter in several European languages inquiring for added reports, did not offer any further facts,” the crew writes in their paper.


Sad to say, while the scientists were able to get their fingers on specimens of H. covidum, they weren’t equipped to get enough specimens of D. mayottensis to totally explain the species. Despite that, the scientists imagine that D. mayottensis could belong to an full new team of hammerhead flatworms.

“In all phylogenies, D. mayottensis was the sister-group of all other bipaliines, suggesting that it signifies a distinct genus, which needs official description this will await availability of more specimens,” the staff writes.

“External morphology superficially suggests that the species is close to Humbertium, but the reproductive anatomy is mysterious.”

The exploration has been published in Peer J.