The Three-Spined Fresh-water Stickleback
If anyone reading this article went pond dipping as a child, you will most likely remember catching Sticklebacks. Also known by their Latin name Gasterosteus Aculaeatus, these small fish grow to 3-4 cm in length and are abundant throughout the UK. They can be found in almost any areas where there is fresh water, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, ditches and marshlands. Being small predatory fish, they feed on Tadpoles, Water Daphnia (Water Fleas), Invertebrates, Newts and also other Fish including their own baby fry.
In the spring male Sticklebacks change colour to attract females where their throats and belly’s turn bright orange. The males are very parental and build nests amongst small pieces of aquatic vegetation and silt, then after a complicated courtship, the males align the females into their nests where she will lay up to 400 eggs. The male then fertilizes the eggs and then chases the female away, defending the nest until the eggs hatch three to four weeks later. During that time, he will regularly fan the eggs with his fins sending fresh oxygenated water into the nest. Baby and adult Sticklebacks have many predators so it is thought; the three spines are defense against larger predatory Fish.
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