Only two species of the strigeid subgenus Apatemon (Apatemon) sensu Sudarikov (1959), Apatemon gracilis (Rudolhi, 1819) and A. annuligerum (von Nordmann, 1832), are known to infect British fishes. A. annuligerum is poorly characterised, with few life-cycle data available, since only the adult and metacercarial stages have been described. Both of these life-stages demonstrate only minor morphological differences from those of A. gracilis. The multidimensional approach of principal components analysis (PCA) was employed to determine the intra-and inter-specific morphological variation that exists for metacercariae of these species. Analyses revealed that metacercarial morphometrics cannot confidently discriminate between Apatemon gracilis and A. annuligerum specimens. Indeed, levels of intra-specific variation present between A. gracilis metacercariae originating from different piscine hosts were as marked for certain populations as those between the two nominal species. Individual populations of A. gracilis metacercariae differed most in the relative dimensions of their internal organs, whereas variation between the two nominal species was primarily in length-related variables. A. gracilis specimens originating from Welsh and Scottish stoneloach represented two populations with the most comparable total body lengths, yet clustered separately. Conversely, A. gracilis metacercariae infecting rainbow trout and salmon parr differed markedly in size, but demonstrated minimal composite morphological variation. Much, if not all, of the variation described between populations and species of parasites can be attributed to host or to metacercarial location within a particular host. These findings and the lack of strong life-cycle data for A. annuligerum place some doubt on its validity as a species discrete from A. gracilis.
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