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Morphological characteristics of Mesocestoides canislagopodis (Krabbe 1865) tetrathyridia found in rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) in Iceland


Necropsies of 1010 rock ptarmigans (Lagopus muta) sampled in autumn 2006–2015 in northeast Iceland revealed Mesocestoides canislagopodis tetrathyridia infections in six birds (0.6 %), two juvenile birds (3 month old), and four adult birds (15 months or older). Four birds had tetrathyridia in the body cavity, one bird in the liver, and one bird both in the body cavity and the liver. There were more tetrathyridia in the body cavity of the two juveniles (c. 50 in each) than in three adults (10–40), possibly indicating a host-age-related tetrathyridia mortality. Approximately, half of tetrathyridia in the body cavity were free or loosely attached to the serosa, the other half were encapsulated in a thin, loose connective tissue stroma, frequently attached to the lungs and the liver. Tetrathyridia in the liver parenchyma incited variably intense inflammation. Tetrathyridia from the juvenile hosts were whitish, heart-shaped, and flattened, with unsegmented bodies with a slightly pointed posterior end. In the adult hosts, tetrathyridia were sometimes almost rectangular-shaped, slightly wider compared to those in the juveniles, but more than twice as long as the younger-aged tetrathyridia. Tetrathyridia infections are most likely acquired during the brief insectivorous feeding phase of ptarmigan chicks, and the tetrathyridia persist throughout the lifespan of the birds.

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The authors are grateful to more than 40 persons that have assisted in the field and in the laboratory in sampling and examining rock ptarmigans during the past 10 years, and to Margrét Jónsdóttir and Eygló Gísladóttir at Keldur for preparing and staining the histological sections. Bruce Conn commented on an early draft of the manuscript. Financial support was provided by the Icelandic Research Fund (grant number 090207021), the Research Fund of the University of Iceland, the Icelandic Hunter’s Fund and the Icelandic Institute of Natural History.

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Correspondence to Karl Skirnisson.

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Skirnisson, K., Sigurðardóttir, Ó.G. & Nielsen, Ó.K. Morphological characteristics of Mesocestoides canislagopodis (Krabbe 1865) tetrathyridia found in rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) in Iceland. Parasitol Res 115, 3099–3106 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-016-5065-7

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  • Mesocestoides
  • Life cycle
  • Tetrathyridium
  • Morphology
  • Histopathology