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Becker, George C. / Fishes of Wisconsin
(1983)

Stickleback family - gasterosteidae,   pp. 775-786 PDF (5.3 MB)


Page 780

 
780    Stickleback Family-Gasterosteidae 
M. Fish (1932) illustrated and described the 19.6-mm 
stage. 
  The growth of young-of-year brook sticklebacks in 
Wisconsin follows: 
                     TL 
         No. of     (Mm) 
Date      Fish   Avg  Range         Location 
18 June   14     25.1 20-33   Rocky Run Cr. (Wood Co.) 
20 June    4     24.8 22-26   K C Cr. (Marinette Co.) 
30 June   10     33.9 27-40   Pecatonica R. (Lafayette Co.) 
30 June   23     32.3 22-38   Pecatonica R. (Iowa Co.) 
4 July    14     26.7 22-31   Pedro Cr. (Oneida Co.) 
16 July    9     33.4 30-35   Duffy Cr. (Crawford Co.) 
22 July   25     33.7 26-38   Tributary to Waupaca R. 
                                (Waupaca Co.) 
19 Sept.   8     30.9 25-35   L. Michigan (Door Co.) 
20 Sept.   8     42.1 40-45   Mill Cr. (Wood Co.) 
24 Sept.  86     39.6 31-47   Citron Cr. (Crawford Co.) 
29 Sept.  21     46.0 39-49   Wolf R. (Langlade Co.) 
  Based on their length-frequency distribution, brook 
sticklebacks captured 22 July from a tributary to the 
Waupaca River (Waupaca County) were: age 0- 
26-38 mm; age 1-40-58 mm; and age 11-60-63 
mm. On 24 June in Popple Creek (Forest County), 
the estimated length-frequency distribution was: age 
0-29-32 mm; age 1-35-54 mm; age 11-56-59 mm; 
and age 111-68 mm. The last age group was repre- 
sented by a single individual, and age group II was 
weakly represented. 
  Sexual maturity is attained in 1 year. 
  A large, 76-mm, 4.65-g brook stickleback was taken 
from Rock Creek (Barron County) (Wis. Fish Dist. 
Study 1975). The maximum size reported for this spe- 
cies is 87 mm (3.5 in) (Scott and Crossman 1973). 
  The brook stickleback is carnivorous. A wide va- 
riety of aquatic insects, especially larvae and crusta- 
cans are the principal food items. In the Madison area 
(Dane County), more than 47% of the volume of food 
eaten consisted of insects, and 38% consisted of en- 
tomostracans (Pearse 1918). Winn (1960) noted that 
fish eggs, its own and those of other species, are a 
minor item in the brook stickleback's diet. 
  In Illinois (Forbes 1883), half of the stomach con- 
tents of four brook sticklebacks consisted of filamen- 
tous algae and the other half of insects (nearly all 
aquatic larvae of Chironomus) and Entomostraca (with 
Cladocera the most abundant). In Minnesota (Nurn- 
berger 1928), brook sticklebacks had eaten algae, 
sponges, Entomostraca, and insects and their larvae. 
  Individual brook sticklebacks show some aggres- 
sive behavior of a nonreproductive type called food- 
fighting (Reisman and Cade 1967). Food-fighting 
appears to involve the establishment of a hierarchy, 
especially under crowded conditions. Large food ob- 
jects are shaken vigorously while held in the mouth; 
this action serves not only to kill and to break up the 
prey into smaller pieces, but also to signal communal 
feeding, during which the large pieces of food are 
grabbed from mouth to mouth by five to seven par- 
ticipating individuals, attempting to steal the food 
away. Degraeve (1970) noted two instances in which 
brook sticklebacks burrowed their heads into the silt 
of the bottom in search of food. 
  When acclimated to water temperatures of 25-26°C 
(77-79*F), the brook stickleback's upper tolerance limit 
(permitting 50% survival) is 30.6°C (87.1°F) (Brett 
1944). Preliminary tests have shown that this species 
can be acclimated to survive for months at lower tol- 
erance temperatures of 0.0 to -2.0°C (Reisman and 
Cade 1967). 
  Nitrite toxicity of 5 ppm killed brook sticklebacks 
(McCoy 1972) in 3-5 hours; they were less sensitive 
to this toxicity level than the yellow perch, but far 
more sensitive than carp, black bullheads, common 
suckers, and quillbacks. Salinity tolerance experi- 
ments have indicated that brook sticklebacks have a 
considerable tolerance to salt water, at least for short 
periods; they continued to feed in salinities of 50% 
sea water (17.5 ppt), but ceased all activity at salini- 
ties of 70% (Nelson 1968c). Natural populations of 
brook sticklebacks are found in salt or brackish water, 
but such populations are unusual (Scott and Cross- 
man 1973). 
  The marked spring and early summer natural 
breeding season of the brook stickleback suggests the 
stimulating effect of a long photoperiod, i.e., about 
14-15.5 hours per day (Reisman and Cade 1967). In 
the nonreproductive state, these fish are relatively 
passive and congregate in schools. 
  Three types of burrowing behavior have been as- 
cribed to the brook stickleback (Degraeve 1970). In 
one type, the fish burrow into silt by diving into it 
head first, and then rapidly lash their tails to propel 
their bodies beneath the silt; they may remain buried 
for periods exceeding 30 minutes. In another bur- 
rowing action, the fish "tunnel" through the silty 
substrate at about 15 cm per second for distances as 
great as 0.6 m, before they emerge again. Burrowing 
into silt in search of food, which has been described 
above, is the third type of behavior. 
  Spectacular downstream movements of the brook 
stickleback have been recorded. Large numbers were 
trapped moving down Silver Creek, Ontario, into 
Georgian Bay in Lake Huron, during a week in mid- 
June; similar numbers were trapped during a week 
from the end of June to early July of the following 


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