Intensity-dependent development of Ornithodiplostomum ptychocheilus metacercariae was studied in fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) exposed to 0, 20, or 120 cercariae. Subsamples of hosts were necropsied at 2-wk intervals to monitor parasite recruitment, growth, and time to encystment. The complex development of metacercariae within the cranium of minnows involved growth, encystment, and consolidation phases, each of which were affected by intensity. At the end of the growth phase, metacercariae from low-dose fish were 20% longer than those from high-dose fish and the latter took 2–4 wk longer to encyst. At the end of the postencystment consolidation phase (6–8 wk postinfection), the size of metacercariae decreased by approximately 50%. The rate of consolidation was slower in high-dose fish. Our results show that time, intensity, and temperature affect development of O. ptychocheilus. Because metacercariae development and differentiation are linked to infectivity, events occurring in intermediate hosts can potentially impact the structure and size of trematode suprapopulations.
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