The life cycle of the parasitic copepod Lernaeocera branchialis involves 2 hosts, typically a pleuronectiform host upon which development of larvae and mating of adults occurs and a subsequent gadoid host, upon which the adult female feeds and reproduces. Both the copepodid and adult female stages must therefore locate and identify a suitable host to continue the life cycle. Several mechanisms are potentially involved in locating a host and ensuring its suitability for infection. These may include mechano-reception to detect host movement and chemo-reception to recognize host-associated chemical cues, or kairomones. The aim of this study was to identify the role of kairomones in host location by adult L. branchialis, by analysing their behaviour in response to fish-derived chemicals. Experiments demonstrated that water conditioned by immersion of whiting, Merlangius merlangus, elicited host-seeking behaviour in L. branchialis, whereas cod- (Gadus morhua) conditioned water did not. Lernaeocera branchialis are considered a genetically homogeneous population infecting a range of gadoids. However, their differential response to whiting- and cod-derived chemicals in this study suggests that either there are genetically determined subspecies of L. branchialis or there is some form of environmental pre-conditioning that allows the parasite to preferentially recognize the host species from which it originated.