The functional morphology of the alimentary canal of copepodite and chalimus stages of Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Krøyer, 1837) is described and compared with that found in other copepods studied to date.
The buccal cavity passes into a gut comprising three major regions: foregut (oesophagus), midgut and hindgut. The foregut and hindgut both posscss a cuticular lining whereas the midgut is lined with specialized epithelial cells. The midgut is divided into three recognizable zones, namely anterior midgut caecum, anterior midgut and posterior midgut. Three main types of epithelial cell are recognizable in the midgut: vesicular cells, microvillous cells and basal cells which correspond to the cell types normally described in other parasitic and free-living copepod species.
Digestion is thought to occur in the midgut and be mediated by the epithelial cells that line it. Although several glands appear to discharge into the area of the buccal cavity, none was seen to interface to any other area of the gut. There was no evidence for the involvement of commensal gut bacteria in food digestion.