Ligula intestinalis (Cestoda: Diphyllobothriidae) in Kenya: a field investigation into host specificity and behavioural alterations

Parasitology. 2009 Sep;136(11):1367-73. doi: 10.1017/S003118200999059X. Epub 2009 Jul 23.


Within the distribution of Ligula intestinalis, a tapeworm affecting freshwater fishes, there are genetically distinct and well-separated phylogenetic clusters. East Africa is represented by a single monophyletic clade which is understudied compared with Euro-Mediterranean clades. The present field investigation in the Lake Baringo and Naivasha catchments, Kenya, revealed that this L. intestinalis clade was highly host-specific, present in only 2 of 12 fishes examined; Barbus paludinosus in Naivasha and Barbus lineomaculatus in Baringo. In infected fish, cestodes comprised up to 20% of body weight. Only 1 parasite was recorded per fish, a contrast to infected fishes in Europe where mixed infections are commonplace. In B. lineomaculatus in Baringo, only fish of greater than 64 mm in length were parasitized. The highest parasite prevalence was recorded in fish of 70-77 mm in length, and reduced for lengths of 78-84 mm. Parasitized fish were significantly associated with a particular type of habitat, occurring most frequently in shallow littoral areas, and being absent from open water and rocky shore habitats. Uninfected fish were present in all habitats. This relationship between spatial occupancy and parasite prevalence is suggested to arise from behavioural alterations induced by the parasite that promotes completion of the parasite life cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cestoda / classification
  • Cestoda / pathogenicity
  • Cestoda / physiology*
  • Cyprinidae / classification
  • Cyprinidae / parasitology*
  • Cyprinidae / physiology
  • Ecosystem
  • Fish Diseases / epidemiology
  • Fish Diseases / parasitology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Species Specificity