In European freshwater, cyprinid fish may be heavily infected by plerocercoids of the pseudophyllidea cestode Ligula intestinalis (L.). During their development, these parasites grow rapidly to a large size in the fish's body cavity, characteristically distending the abdomen. In this study, the influence of this tapeworm on roach (Rutilus rutilus L.) morphology was analyzed. Forty-five infected and 45 uninfected roach were collected from the Lavernose-Lacasse gravel pit in Toulouse, south western France and examined for 40 morphological measurements to study phenotypic modification of the body and 14 bilateral characters for an analysis of asymmetry. Results indicate that the degree of bilateral asymmetry does not change between infected and uninfected roach, despite the strong host-morphological modifications such as deformation of the abdomen, fin displacements at the level of the tail, and sagging of the vertebral column. The intensity of abdominal distension and fish morphology changes depends on the total parasite biomass present. Differences were observed in morphology at different levels of infection, which relate to established effects of L. intestinalis on the physiology and behavior of intermediate hosts. These morphological changes induced by the parasite could increase trophic transmission to the definitive avian hosts.

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