The uptake of lead by cystacanths of the acanthocephalan Pomphorhynchus laevis in naturally infected amphipods, Gammarus pulex, and by immature parasites in experimentally infected fish, Leuciscus cephalus, was examined following 3-week experimental exposures (0.01 and 0.1 mg l−1 Pb2+). Both G. pulex and the cystacanths of P. laevis accumulated lead but concentrations in the parasites were lower than in the host tissues at the low lead dose and significantly lower at the high dose. P. laevis from chub exposed to 0.01 mg l−1 lead contained significantly more of the metal than the tissues of their host. Interestingly, there was an increase in the mean lead levels in the parasites from the control chubs which was concurrent with a decrease in host tissue concentrations. The results of this experimental study therefore confirm previous suggestions that heavy metals are predominantly accumulated by acanthocephalans inside the fish definitive host and not by␣cystacanths in the haemocoel of the amphipod intermediate host. The microhabitat of the parasite is therefore of primary importance rather than its developmental stage. Furthermore, metal concentrations in adult acanthocephalans will respond rapidly to changes in environmental exposure of their hosts.