The attachment and penetration of Centrocestus armatus cercariae into the fish host Zacco temmincki are described in this study. Light and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were used to examine the topographical features and behavior of cercariae. Histochemistry and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) were employed to trace glandular products and secretions released by cercariae during penetration. Cercariae are first carried into the fish gill chambers via the respiratory currents. The frequency of respiratory-current reversals of fish increased when infected with cercariae. The behavior of cercariae, during breaks in current flow that preceded each current reversal, was observed using a specially devised apparatus. Cercariae produce a mucus-like secretion upon attachment, shed their tail, and employ a brief period of leech-like creeping behavior before penetration. In all cases, the site of penetration was via the surface of the primary gill lamellae. SEM revealed a well-developed anterior penetration apparatus, and a highly contractile body region, that created a driving force for penetration. TEM and histochemistry showed that the mucus observed on the surface tegument of cercariae during attachment were glandular secretions from the parasite. The significance of fish respiratory current reversals to the success of cercariae penetration nicely illustrates the exploitation by the parasite of a host response to a stimulus.
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