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common name for members of the family Gasterosteidae, small fishes, widely distributed in both fresh- and saltwaters of the Northern Hemisphere. Sticklebacks range from 1 1-2 to 4 in. (3.7–10 cm) in length and lack true scales; they are equipped with short, strong spines in front of the dorsal and on the ventral fins, the number varying with the species. These are used as offensive and defensive weapons, often against other sticklebacks during the breeding season, when the male is brightly colored and pugnacious. Each male constructs a roofed nest by gluing together bits of vegetation with a sticky secretion from glands near the kidneys. Under his persuasion, several females deposit eggs in the nest, which he guards jealously until well after the young hatch. Sticklebacks feed on smaller invertebrates and on the fry and eggs of other fish. Best known are the three-spined, or common, stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, a coastal species, and the brook stickleback, Calaea inconstans, a smaller freshwater variety. Sticklebacks are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Gasterosteiformes, family Gasterosteidae.



any fish of the family Gasterosteidae of the order Gasterosteiformes. There are five genera, distributed in the salt, brackish, and fresh waters of Europe, Asia, North America, and North Africa. The species found in the USSR are the fifteen-spined stickleback (Spinachia spinachia), the spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), and the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). The body is 3–20 cm long. There are between three and 16 spines on the back before the dorsal fin; there is one large spine on the ventral fin (hence the Latin name). During the breeding season the males construct nests from twigs, plant remains, sand, and silt, which they reinforce with mucus. Two or three females deposit approximately 1,000 eggs in a nest. The male guards the eggs and, later, the larvae. These fish feed on small crustaceans, insect larvae, and on the eggs and larvae of other fishes, thus causing some losses to the fishing industry. Their commercial value is not great. Three-spined sticklebacks (length, up to 12 cm; weight, up to 4 g), which are caught in some places in large quantities, are used for clarifying fat.


(vertebrate zoology)
Any fish which is a member of the family Gasterosteidae, so named for the variable number of free spines in front of the dorsal fin.


any small teleost fish of the family Gasterosteidae, such as Gasterosteus aculeatus (three-spined stickleback) of rivers and coastal regions and G. pungitius (ten-spined stickleback) confined to rivers. They have a series of spines along the back and occur in cold and temperate northern regions
References in periodicals archive ?
Finally, the ability of these four fish species (brook stickleback, northern redbelly dace, brassy minnow, and creek chub) to collectively depress invertebrate abundance in the stream has potentially profound implications for fish population and assemblage dynamics.
The courtship behavior of the male brook stickleback, Culaea inconstans (Kirtland).
Conservation and variation in the agonistic repertoire of the brook stickleback, Culaea inconstans (Kirtland).
Geographic variation in brook stickleback, Culaea inconstans, and notes on nomenclature and distribution.
Physiological and behavioral aspects of reproduction in the brook stickleback, Culaea inconstans.
The relative influences of sexual and natural selection upon the evolution of male and female nuptial colouration in the brook stickleback, Culaea inconstans.
Biology of the brook stickleback, Eucalia inconstans (Kirtland).
TABLE 1.--Behavioral variables measured during courtship and spawning in 51 male brook stickleback Culaea inconslans from four allopatric populations.
Like all other gasterosteids, male brook sticklebacks defend territories, build nests and vigorously court passing conspecific females.
Male brook sticklebacks from Nebraska and Tooley Creek performed all courtship and agonistic displays.
We detected several differences in the courtship and spawning repertoires of brook sticklebacks from four geographically disjunct populations.
The precise function of female shaking in brook sticklebacks is currently unknown, although a similar display elicits courtship and sperm release from males in Oncorhynchus nerka (Satou et al., 1991, 1994) and courtship from females in sex-role reversed pipefish (Fiedler, 1954).