An order of abundant, free-living, freshwater and marine crustaceans of basic importance in the aquatic food chain in both the marine and freshwater environments; some species are commonly called water fleas. Some are ectoparasites of both cold-blooded and warm-blooded aquatic vertebrates; the parasitic copepods of fish and whales are often highly modified for deep penetration of the skin or for adherence by suckers and hooks (the fish lice, Argulus). Certain copepods (Cyclops, Diaptomus) are important as intermediate hosts of the tapeworm Diphyllobothrium latum and of the nematode Dracunculus medinensis.
[G. kope, an oar, + pous (pod-), a foot]
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