E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Gasterosteus aculeatus Linnaeus, 1758
Threespine Stickleback
Family: Gasterosteidae

Photo of species

© Mike Pearson  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #78298)


Distribution of Gasterosteus aculeatus in British Columbia.
Source: Distribution map provided by Don McPhail for E-Fauna BC
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Species Information

Dorsal spines (total): 2 - 4; Dorsal soft rays (total): 10 - 14; Anal spines: 1; Anal soft rays: 8 - 10; Vertebrae: 29 - 33. Identified by the 3 to 4 sharp, free spines before the dorsal fin, the pelvic fin reduced to a sharp spine and a small ray, and the series of plates along the sides of the body. Gill rakers long and slender, 17 to 25 on the first arch or strictly freshwater forms, 1 or 2 more in anadromous forms; lateral line with microscopic pores. The anadromous form is fully plated, with up to 37 plates on the sides and a rather pronounced keel on each side of the caudal peduncle. Dorsal spines separated from each other and from the soft-rayed fins, each spine having a reduced membrane attached to its posterior side; anal spine free from rest of the fin; posterior margin of pectorals nearly truncate; caudal truncate to slightly indented. Freshwater forms usually mottled brown or greenish; anadromous forms silvery green to bluish black. A few isolated populations are black. Sides usually pale; belly yellow, white or silvery. Fins pale; pectoral rays often have dark dots. Breeding males (except for black forms) become brilliant bluish or green with blue or green eyes, and the forward part of the body, especially the breast region, turns bright red or orange. Caudal fin with 12 rays.

Source: FishBase. Banister, K. 1986 Gasterosteidae. p. 640-643. In P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. volume 2. UNESCO, Paris.

Identification and Subspecies Information

The British Columbia Conservation Data Centre list eleven additional unnamed taxa as Gasterosteus sp. These are undescribed taxa which may or may not be variants of Gasterosteus aculeatus. Please refer to the BC Species and Ecosystem Explorer for more details and status information for Gasterosteus sp.

Biology

Species Biology

Occurs in fresh waters, estuaries and coastal seas. In the sea, confined to coastal waters. Inhabits shallow vegetated areas, usually over mud or sand. Forms schools. Young associated with drifting seaweed. Feeds on worms, crustaceans, larvae and adult aquatic insects, drowned aerial insects, and small fishes; has also been reported to feed on their own fry and eggs. Anadromous and nerito-pelagic. Eggs are found in nests constructed from plant material. Maximum length in freshwater is 8 cm while in saltwater is 11 cm.

Source: FishBase. Banister, K. 1986 Gasterosteidae. p. 640-643. In P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. volume 2. UNESCO, Paris.

Distribution

BC Distribution and Notes

The threespine stickleback is notorious for the complexity of its morphological, ecological, and behavioural forms. These forms often are sympatric or parapatric and, in many cases, they act like good biological species (i.e., they are reproductively isolated and use different trophic and spatial resources). To further confuse matters, these forms tend to evolve repeatedly. They are of great scientific interest and a headache for biodiversity managers. A rule of thumb for prioritizing the different forms of Gasterosteus for protection is to examine their geographic distributions. For example, the anadromous stream-resident dichotomy is widespread in Europe, Asia, and both coasts of North America. This suggests that the conditions that produce this dichotomy are widespread. Consequently, although local examples may be lost, the dichotomy is unlikely to go extinct. In contrast, the benthic-limnetic dichotomy only occurs in B.C. (although it has been searched for elsewhere). This suggests that the conditions that lead to this dichotomy are rare, local, and unique. Thus, this dichotomy has a higher biodiversity value than the anadromous stream-resident dichotomy and warrants more rigorous protection than the other dichotomy.

Source: Information provided by Don McPhail for E-Fauna BC.
Global Distribution

Circumpolar in Arctic and temperate regions, extending south to the Black Sea, southern Italy, Iberian Peninsula, North Africa; in Eastern Asia north of Japan (35°N), in North America north of 30-32°N; Greenland.

Source: FishBase. Banister, K. 1986 Gasterosteidae. p. 640-643. In P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. volume 2. UNESCO, Paris.
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Status Information

Scientific NameOrigin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
COSEWIC
Gasterosteus aculeatusNativeS5YellowNot Listed
Gasterosteus aculeatus pop. 1NativeS1S2RedSC (Nov 2013)
Gasterosteus aculeatus pop. 2NativeS1RedT (Nov 2015)
Gasterosteus aculeatus pop. 3NativeS1RedT (Nov 2015)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References


Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2021-12-02 3:27:03 PM]
Disclaimer: The information contained in an E-Fauna BC atlas pages is derived from expert sources as cited (with permission) in each section. This information is scientifically based.  E-Fauna BC also acts as a portal to other sites via deep links.  As always, users should refer to the original sources for complete information.  E-Fauna BC is not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of the original information.


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