Polar Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 12, pp 2543–2559 | Cite as

A century of taxonomic uncertainty: re-description of two species of tapeworms (Diphyllobothriidea) from Arctic seals

  • Bjoern C. Schaeffner
  • Oleg Ditrich
  • Roman KuchtaEmail author
Original Paper


Diphyllobothriid tapeworms are well-known parasites of mammals including humans. Most species are known for centuries, but the validity of many species and their classification are still poorly understood. Based on new collections and re-observation of museum material, we focus on widely distributed taxa infecting several species of seals (Phocinae) in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. The existence of two morphologically similar diphyllobothriid species, Diphyllobothrium lanceolatum and Diphyllobothrium schistochilos, is revealed through detailed analyses of morphological and morphometric data as well as supported by genetic data published recently. Both species show a striking similarity in their body shape, which historically resulted in numerous misidentifications and erroneous records in the literature. Despite previous attempts to unequivocally recognize the species identity of these congeners, D. lanceolatum can be differentiated from D. schistochilos by the presence of a triangular scolex with a posterior velum, a rapid maturation of the strobila and the pointed or slightly rounded appearance of the last proglottid. In addition to the re-descriptions of both species, we provide novel information on their host spectrum and biogeographic distribution.


Diphyllobothrium lanceolatum Diphyllobothrium schistochilos Cestoda Biogeography Phocidae 



The authors are indebted to T. Tyml (Czech Republic), M.V. Yurakhno (Ukraine), T. Kuzmina (Ukraine) and J. Carie (U.S.A.) who kindly provided material for the present study. We would also like to acknowledge Mrs. Eileen Harris (BMNH), Mrs. Michèle Bruni (MOM), Dr. Sara Brant (MSB), Dr. Helmut Sattmann (NMW), Dr. Phil D. Harris (NMUO), Prof. Dr. Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen (SNM), Dr. Anna Phillips (USNM) and Dr. Birger Neuhaus (ZMB) for providing access to the museum collections and the permission to assess material for the present study. Thanks are also due to Daniel Barčák (Slovakia) who provided new sequences of D. lanceolatum. Visits to museum institutions were supported financially by the SYNTHESYS programme of the European Communities (project Nos. DE-TAF-703, DK-TAF-4500, GB-TAF-735 and 926). This study was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (project No. P505/12/G112) and the Institute of Parasitology, Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences (RVO: 60077344). The authors would also like to thank the Czech Arctic Research Infrastructure “Josef Svoboda Station” (projects CzechPolar2 LM 2015078 and ECOPOLARIS No. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_013/0001708).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 30 kb)
300_2018_2396_MOESM2_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 20 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Parasitology, Biology CentreCzech Academy of SciencesČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  2. 2.Water Research Group, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, Potchefstroom CampusNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa
  3. 3.Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic

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