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Phlebotomus simonahalepae

Simona Halep has been in the news with her recent wedding but now, in one of the more bizarre stories of the week, the former World No 1 has given her name to a newly discovered species of insects in Romania.

Describing a new species is a complex process, which takes time, but also an act of responsibility. The idea of naming the species in honour of Simona Halep came to us at a conference on sandflies in Galapagos. Professor Andrei Mihalca, coordinator of the study in Constanta

Scientists discovered the new species of insects, sandflies, near Constanta, Halep’s birthplace on the Black Sea.

Many players have lent their names to stadiums, streets, stamps and so on, but this has to be a first, inspiring the name of an insect species to be called Phlebotomus simonahalepae.

It began with a study conducted by scientists from the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Cluj-Napoca (USAMV) in Constanta and researchers from the European Center for the Prevention and Disease Control, who discovered the insect in Canaraua Fetii near the Bulgarian border.

The results of the study were published in in the August edition of medical journal Parasites & Vectors.

Researcher Cristina Pop said the new creature had been discovered in 2018 ‘among hundreds of others, we noticed one that was completely different’.

She said further research revealed it came from a previously unknown sub-species: “We only had a single specimen, so we didn’t publish anything, and we tried to collect other examples for the next two years without success.

“It’s a newly discovered species.”

The insect belongs to a group of hematophagous or blood-sucking insects which are usually found in warm climates.

Some species spread diseases from animals to humans. Eight different species were observed between 1910 and 1970.


Phlebotomus simonahalepae

Photo: USAMV

“Describing a new species is a complex process, which takes time, but also an act of responsibility,” Professor Andrei Mihalca, coordinator of the study, said in the local media. “The idea of naming the species in honour of Simona Halep came to us at a conference on sandflies in Galapagos.

“It was while talking with Cristina Pop, the author of the study, that I suggested this name, especially since the study site is very close to the birthplace of our tennis player.

“Cristina immediately agreed and we were very happy afterwards to receive Simona Halep’s agreement, through her legal officer, who informed us that she was honoured by our initiative.

“We dedicate this scientific discovery to Simona Halep, as a sign of honour and recognition for her performance and for the way she bears Romania’s name in the world, as we also do in the field of research.”

Halep has won 2 Grand Slams, countless other titles and millions of fans in her long career on the tennis court, and now she can add a blood-sucking insect with 6 legs to her resume.





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