For those of us who have ever sampled fish, the three-spined stickleback is no stranger. There have been times I have counted hundreds, sometimes thousands of stickleback in a day. In honor of this little, sometimes often overlooked fish, I'd like to share some stickleback trivia with you.
The common name of this fish is derived from the three sharp spines on the back in front of the dorsal fin. The sides of the stickleback are usually covered with large bony plates.
During mating season, the male develops bright colors and becomes quite aggressive. They perform a courtship ritual to entice females to lay their eggs inside a hollow nest. After the female lays her eggs and leaves the nest, the male takes over parental duties, guarding the fertilized eggs, and if necessary, fanning them with his tail to provide them with oxygen.
The colorful, aggressive male sticklebacks, became excellent examples of fixed-action patterns of behavior when jealous stickleback males held in aquaria would try to attack red British mail trucks when they could see them through the glass of their tanks. Read more.
Sticklebacks can be found in fresh, brackish, or salt water and is native to much of northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America.
Catches of stickleback were once so numerous that the fish were used as fertilizer for farmlands in Europe.
In Britain, the stickleback is sometimes referred to as a "tiddler", the first small fish caught by school children. Charles Dickens wrote of the stickleback in the Pickwick Papers and called them "tiddle-bats".
These fish have recently become a major research organism for evolutionary biologists trying to understand the genetic changes involved in adapting to new environments.
Nature: Stickleback genomes reveal path of evolution
YouTube: Stickleback Evolution