Cestode life cycle database overview

The Cestode life cycle database has been developed as an integral component of a project entitled: 'Origins and radiation of parasite life history strategies: resolving patterns and processes in tapeworm evolution', funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (UK) and conducted at the Natural History Museum.

The database was designed to collect and organise available information about life cycles (developmental morphology, transmission processes, host-parasite associations) for a selection of cestode species. We have begun entering data with two aims in mind. The first is to provide in-depth coverage of taxonomic groups where completed life cycles are known or can be inferred. The second is to provide wide taxonomic and/or ecological coverage to demonstrate the diversity in host use and life cycle complexity across the group. Ultimately, we would like a complete coverage of information for all taxa, including single observations of identified (or identifiable) cestodes in identified host species.


Our primary objective in developing this tool is to generate 'on demand' character matrices that can be mapped onto cestode phylogenies (evolutionary trees) in order to infer historical evolutionary processes. Thus, we aim to shed new light on a number of longstanding questions in cestodology, such as retracing the evolution of life cycles over the different taxa, understanding the evolution of complexity or assessing homologies between the various developmental stages.

Our second objective is to make available this information for a broad audience (biologists, physicians, non-professionals) via an online search tool. One can be interested in generating a list of known hosts for a given cestode species or, alternatively, a list of cestode species for a given host, along with reference to primary literature from which the information is extracted. There is also possibility to search for keywords within the primary literature (collected since the early days of life cycle studies in cestodes, in the second part of the 19th century). Ultimately, we would like to automatically generate life cycle representations that summarise our current knowledge for every cestode species.

There are, of course, far broader opportunities for those interested in parasites, the organisms that parasites infect, and the dynamics between them. Raw data and reports are available upon request for any qualitative or quantitative analyses.

This online interface is a means by which we can engage with the parasitology community and we encourage feedback, collaboration and comment. Contributions of information, including the correction of any mistakes, are particularly welcome.The current version of the Cestode life cycle database, as you are viewing it from this site, is a simplified interface with the full database. The full database is designed and managed in Filemaker Pro v8.5 and will be the source from which additional search tools will become available. Please contact us if you require further details.

Contact us

Dr Tim Littlewood
Researcher, Parasitic Worms Group

Natural History Museum
Zoology Department
Cromwell Road

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