Adult female guinea worms (Dracunculus spp.) usually are reported to occur singly in the extremities of their hosts, from which they deliver their larvae into the water through fistulae in the host's skin. We visually examined for the presence of worms in the fascia of the limbs of skinned carcasses of 184 river otters (Lontra canadensis) harvested in Arkansas and report observations of cysts on wrists and ankles found on 12 otters. Cysts averaged 15.6 × 24.6 mm in diameter, were round to oval, and contained masses of up to 19 adult female Dracunculus sp. (mean 6.7). We speculate that high levels of infection in consumed paratenic hosts might have caused high infection rates, leading to large cyst formation in otters, as larvigerous Dracunculus sp. females accumulated in extremities. No males were discovered during the study, so identification of a sample of worms was based on molecular techniques.
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Vol. 104 • No. 3