An enigmatic new tapeworm is described from pelagic thresher sharks in México and Taiwan. While lsrRNA (D1-D3) data robustly place it in the Litobothriidea, it bears essentially no morphological resemblance to other members of the order. Instead it superficially resembles the freshwater fish-inhabiting Caryophyllidea. Its scolex consists of a simple dome-shaped scolex proper and an extensive cephalic peduncle housing four distinct tissue types. It is hyperapolytic, thus reproductive anatomy is unknown. Developmental data show typical litobothriideans bear basic elements of their adult scolex upon entering the definitive host, undermining the notion that the new cestode represents a distinct litobothriidean life cycle stage. Scanning electron microscopy revealed the new species shares bands of distinctive microtriches with its congeners. In combination these data justify establishment of Litobothrium aenigmaticum, sp. nov.; the generic, familial and ordinal diagnoses are emended accordingly. Unlike typical litobothriideans, each worm is associated with a mucosal expansion at its attachment site, like those seen in some caryophyllideans. This pathological change may represent a worm-induced host response serving to reinforce attachment of the simple scolex to the mucosa. If so, the convergence of this litobothriidean on a morphology like that seen in the distantly related Caryophyllidea is a result of similarity in mode of attachment.
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Vol. 28 • No. 3