Mihbaicola sakamakii is a mesoparasitic copepod that infests the branchiostegal membranes of groupers (Perciformes: Serranidae). In this study, we observed M. sakamakii within host tissue. Histologically, copepods were found enclosed inside a pouch composed of the thickened epidermis of the host, tightly encased on all sides by the host epidermal pouch wall. There were no host blood cells or other food resources in the pouch lumen. Since the host epidermis was intact and continuous, even in the vicinity of the oral region of the parasite, the copepod would not have access to the host blood in this state. However, the stomach (ampullary part of the mid gut) was filled with granular components, the majority of which were crystalloids that likely originated from fish erythrocyte hemoglobin. We supposed that the parasite drinks blood exuded from the lesion in the fish caused by copepod entry into the host tissue. Invasion of the parasite may elicit immune responses in the host, but there were no traces on the copepod of any cellular immune reactions, such as encapsulation. The array of minute protuberances on the copepod cuticle surface may be involved in avoidance of cell adhesion. After the lesion has healed, the copepod is enclosed in a tough epidermal pouch, in which it gradually digests the contents of its stomach and continues egg production.
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Vol. 31 • No. 8