Life-cycle studies were conducted on 2 molecular strains of Mesocestoides tapeworms that represent different evolutionary lineages (clades A and B). Wild carnivores, reptiles, and rodents were examined for tapeworm infections at 2 enzootic sites: (1) San Miguel Island (SMI), a small island off the coast of southern California and (2) Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC), a field station in northern California. Results indicate that deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) may play an important role in the life cycles of Mesocestoides (clades A and B) in California. Over half the coyotes at HREC and at least a third of the population of island fox (Urocyon littoralis) at SMI were found to harbor clade A adult Mesocestoides spp. One of every 4 Mesocestoides-infected coyotes had tapeworms representing both clades A and B. Experimental inoculations revealed that proglottids (clades A and B) were not directly infectious to rodents, reptiles, or dogs. On the other hand, mice, lizards, and hamsters fed tetrathyridia of Mesocestoides spp. (clades A or B) developed peritoneal tetrathyridial infections. A dog that was fed tetrathyridia (clade B) developed an adult tapeworm infection. Acephalic metacestodes given orally to western fence lizards, laboratory mice, or domestic dogs did not result in metacestode or adult tapeworm infections. Whereas most clade A acephalic metacestodes from dogs were asexually proliferative, clade A tetrathyridia isolated from wild deer mice did not show evidence of asexual replication. Our study supports the hypothesis that a second, as of yet unidentified, intermediate host is necessary to complete the life cycles of Mesocestoides spp., and that acephalic metacestodes represent an aberrant form, incapable of further development.

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