Pseudophyllidean cestodes as Ligula have a complex life cycle with cyclopoid copepods as first intermediate host, zooplanktivorous fish as second, and piscivorous birds as final host. We studied the effects of diet, season and habitat occupation on the prevalence of plerocercoid larvae of the tapeworm Ligula intestinalis in two closely related small barbs and the effects of the parasites on the barbs life histories in Lake Tana (Ethiopia) during 1 year. In all affected barbs L. intestinalis caused retardation in gonad development, maturation at reduced size and lower absolute fecundity. Infection rate, averaged over all habitats was significantly higher in B. tanapelagius (10%) than in B. humilis (6%). Below a threshold of 48 mm the infection rate was zero for both barbs, this coincided with a very low proportion of copepods in their diets, increasing up to 90 and 55%, respectively, for their largest size class (81–90 mm). The relatively high infection rate in B. tanapelagius is explained by its obligatory zooplanktivorous feeding behaviour, ingesting a relatively high proportion of infected cyclopoid copepods. This is in contrast with B. humilis, which is a polyphagous species, feeding both on zooplankton and benthic invertebrates. Significant seasonal effects in infection rates were observed. In both barb species infection rates were lower during the breeding season. Only for B. tanapelagius a significant negative correlation was observed between rain fall and infection rate, probably caused by an increased turbidity that decreases feeding efficiency on zooplankton. Habitat type had also a significant effect on infection rate. Barbus humilis showed a much higher infection rate in shallow clear water (10%) than in shallow turbid water (3%), whereas B. tanapelagius showed much higher infection rates in the shallow sublittoral (13%) than in the deeper pelagic (7%). Most likely, birds predate more efficiently on barbs in shallow clear waters than in shallow turbid and deep waters. [KEYWORDS: African lakes ; habitats ; parasite pressure ; reproduction ; zooplankton ; piscivorous birds]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-117
StatePublished - 2006

ID: 176196