Experimental verification of the metacercarial stage of Rhipidocotyle lepisostei (Trematoda: Bucephalidae) with notes on the natural occurrence of its adult stage in gars in Texas and Virginia.
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Bucephalid metacercariae found encysted in the caudal fin rays of striped mullet (Mugil cephalus) were fed to bucephalid-free spotted gars (Lepisosteus oculatus) in the laboratory. Gravid specimens of Rhipidocotyle lepisostei were recovered from the intestinal tracts of 2 of 3 gars from 7 to 28 days later. Further attempts to complete the entire life cycle were unsuccessful. Natural infections of adult R. lepisostei were found in the type host, the alligator gar Lepisosteus spatula, from Galveston Bay, Texas, and in the longnose gar, Lepisosteus osseus, from the York River, Virginia. This report confirms the identity of the metacercarial stage in the mullet as R. lepisostei and extends the known range of this parasite from the Louisiana and Texas area to the U.S. Atlantic coast.