A data set on intestinal helminth parasites was collected in the course of an 18 year investigation into the biology of eels in Meelick Bay, Lough Derg, River Shannon. This was used to test two hypotheses relating to the composition and structure of intestinal helminth communities, namely that eels in large rivers do not harbour richer and more diverse communities than those in small rivers but that community composition and structure are more stable over time than in small rivers. The helminth community was species poor, with only six species comprising the component community and a maximum infracommunity richness of three species. The community was overwhelmingly dominated by the acanthocephalan Acanthocephalus lucii, reflecting the importance of its intermediate host Asellus aquaticus in the eels' diet. The remaining helminth species contributed to species richness but made very little contribution to community diversity. Population levels of Acanthocephalus lucii fell and remained low between 1992 and 2000, probably reflecting increased movement of eels from other parts of the lough into Meelick Bay. Diversity values were low, but similar to those reported from other rivers in Britain and Europe. The results provided support for both hypotheses and indicated that in respect of richness, diversity and dominance, the helminth communities of eels in the River Shannon were typical of, and comparable to, those of other large rivers throughout Europe.
(Accepted August 05 2002)