Plerocercoids of Diphyllobothrium dendriticum were isolated from whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) from McGregor Lake, Alberta. Adult D. dendriticum were obtained by infection of golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). Analysis of morphological variables indicated high variability and some overlap with D. latum. Correlations in morphology were due to the covariance of shape variables. Isozyme analysis also showed high variability, with two thirds of the enzymes studied being polymorphic. Correlations with morphology indicate a relationship between rare patterns for malate dehydrogenase and esterase and increased size of adults. Southern hybridisation with ribosomal gene probes produced two common patterns and a rare intermediate form, indicating that the species is variable even within a local population. Correlations between rDNA pattern type and morphological variables supported the hypothesis of a genetic base for the morphological variability. © 1990 Kluwer Academic Publishers.