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Three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)

Three-spined stickleback ( Gasterosteus aculeatus )

Spinefish (Acanthopterygii)
Perch relatives (Percomorphaceae)
Order : Perch-like (Perciformes)
Subordination : Cottoidei
Partial order : Sticklebacks (Gasterosteales)
Family : Sticklebacks
Scientific name
Bonaparte , 1832

The sticklebacks (Gasterosteidae) are a family of fish that is found in almost the entire northern hemisphere .

The agile swimmers can be found in fresh water and offshore brackish and sea ​​water . They owe their name to a row of three to sixteen individual spines in front of their dorsal fin. These are converted fin rays . The anterior rays of the pelvic fins are also transformed into spines. All spines can be carried upright without any additional effort, as they snap into the hinges.

Sticklebacks have no scales , their skin is either bare or more or less completely covered with bone plates. Most species remain relatively small and reach sizes of four to eight centimeters, only the sea ​​stickleback stands out with a length of up to 20 centimeters.

Way of life

During spawning season, all sticklebacks build nests from plant material connected to a kidney secretion and show a pronounced, sometimes very complex brood care behavior . The building of the nest and the care for the offspring is the responsibility of the male animals ("father family"). They defend the breeding ground against intra-species competitors and against threats from alien animals. Often times, male sticklebacks mate with more than one female, and these are able to spawn several times in a breeding season.

Sticklebacks feed mainly on small animals. Sticklebacks for their part are a not insignificant source of food for predatory fish (such as pike ) and fish-eating birds ( e.g. gray heron ). In addition, sticklebacks are often the only fish able to colonize small bodies of water in the human cultural landscape, such as straightened streams or melioration ditches .



Their economic importance is low: the sticklebacks were never edible fish in the true sense of the word. In Europe they were only eaten in times of starvation. According to descriptions from the 16th century, the three-spined stickleback was used as emergency food in the Tiber region. Likewise in Danzig , during the siege of the city by Napoleon in 1807 . Otherwise sticklebacks were only used sporadically and in a regionally restricted manner for the production of fish meal or oil, for example in the 1890s by the Germania sea fishing company in Pillau, today's Baltijsk . During the Second World War, sticklebacks were used in the Netherlands to make animal feed. The production of fertilizer was also an occasional purpose and there are also reports of the production of a burn ointment from the fish oil obtained. However, the three-spined stickleback, which tends to multiply in particular, can stand out as a spawning predator and food competitor for commercial fish in the fishing industry.


  • Hans-Joachim Paepke: The sticklebacks: Gasterosteidae , Westarp Sciences, Magdeburg 1996, ISBN 3-89432-492-9
  • Günther Sterba : Freshwater fish of the world , Weltbild Verlag, Augsburg 1998, ISBN 3-89350-991-7
  • Urania animal kingdom - fish amphibians reptiles , Urania Verlag Leipzig / Jena / Berlin 1967

Web links

Commons : Gasterosteidae  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: stickleback  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Higuchi, M., Sakai, H. & Goto, A. (2014): A new threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus nipponicus sp. nov. (Teleostei: Gasterosteidae), from the Japan Sea region. Ichthyological Research, November 2014, Volume 61, Issue 4, Pages 341–351, DOI: 10.1007 / s10228-014-0403-1
  2. ^ Petru M. Bănărescu, Hans-Joachim Paepke: The Freshwater Fishes of Europe , Aula-Verlag, Wiebelsheim 2002, ISBN 3-89104-658-8 . (Volume 5. Cyprinidae 2, Part III: Rhodeus to Capoeta; Gastorosteidae) pp. 242, 243