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

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


Page 782

 
782   Stickleback Family-Gasterosteidae 
Ninespine Stickleback 
Pungitius pungitius (Linnaeus). Pungitius-pricking. 
Other common names: stickleback, tenspine stickle- 
     back, many-spined stickleback, pinfish, tiny 
     burnstickle. 
Adult 67 mm, L. Michigan, near Sheboygan (Sheboygan Co.), 23 
Apr. 1967 
Dorsolateral view. Note arrangement of spines and expanded 
caudal peduncle. 
DESCRIPTION 
Body slender, compressed laterally, tapering to an 
elongate, slender caudal peduncle broader than 
deep. Average length 57 mm (2.3 in). TL = 1.12 SL 
(1.14 in Lake Superior [Griswold and Smith 1973]). 
Depth into TL 6.0-7.2. Head length into TL 3.8-4.5. 
Mouth small, oblique and dorsal, with lips swollen. 
Lower jaw projecting beyond upper jaw; minute, 
needlelike teeth in several irregular rows on upper 
and lower jaws. Dorsal spines 9 (8-11), separate, and 
each with its own membrane, followed by dorsal fin 
with 9-11 rays. Anal fin with 1 spine and 8-10 rays; 
pelvic fin with 1 heavy spine and 1 ray; pectoral fin 
with 10 rays; caudal fin truncate to slightly notched. 
Scaleless, but with small, bony plates usually along 
anterior portion of lateral line, at bases of dorsal and 
anal fins, and on lateral keels of caudal peduncle; lat- 
eral line complete. Digestive tract short, about 0.4 TL. 
Chromosomes 2n = 42 (Chen and Reisman 1970). 
  Dark green to yellow-green above, with irregular 
dark bars or mottling; lower head and belly silvery. 
Fins unpigmented. Male with dark gray iris, ventral 
spines a conspicuous bluish white, and a midventral 
gray patch extending from vent anteriorly to area be- 
tween opercula; female with pale gray iris, ventral 
spines an inconspicuous light gray, and no dark 
patch on ventral surface. 
  Breeding male often with jet black belly and white 
pelvic fin membranes. In both sexes, reddish tints 
about head. 
SYSTEMATIC NOTES 
For North America two morphological forms have 
been suggested (McPhail 1963): the Bering form, 
which occurs in coastal areas from Alaska across the 
top of the continent to New Jersey on the Atlantic 
coast; and the Mississippi form, which occurs from 
the lower Great Lakes north and westward to the 
MacKenzie River, and includes the Wisconsin popu- 
lations. The latter form has a higher gill raker count 
than the Bering form, and a low to intermediate dor- 
sal spine count. McPhail suggested that Pungitius 
survived glaciation in two ice-free refugia, and as- 
sumed that the southern refugium was in the upper 
Mississippi Valley. The evidence suggests that the 
differences between these forms are genotypic. 
DISTRIBUTION, STATUS, AND HABITAT 
In Wisconsin the ninespine stickleback occurs in the 
shoal waters of Lakes Superior and Michigan, and 
occasionally in the mouths of tributaries to these 
lakes. Records and reports appear for Lake Superior 
in Anderson and Smith (1971b), Dryer (1966), Moore 
and Braem (1965), McLain et al. (1965), and Ander- 
son (1969); for Lake Michigan, they appear in Wells 
(1968), Wells and McLain (1973), Smith (1968b), and 
Reigle (1969a, b, c). 
  No records exist of this species from the inland 
lakes in Wisconsin, although there is a possibility 
that it may be present in one or more deep, coldwater 
lakes. It is known from four interior lakes in the state 
of Michigan (Hubbs and Lagler 1964), and from one 
interior lake in Indiana (Nelson 1968a, c). 
  The ninespine stickleback is common to abundant 
in shoal areas of Lake Superior, and uncommon in 
streams of its drainage basin. It is rare to uncommon 
in shoal areas of Lake Michigan. An increase in nine- 
spine stickleback abundance in southern and east- 
central Lake Michigan is indicated since the late 
1960s; this increase may be related to a decrease in 
the abundance of alewives (Wells and McLain 1973). 
  The ninespine stickleback is a fish of cool, quiet 
waters, and in Wisconsin it is almost wholly con- 
fined to the marginal waters of Lakes Superior and 
Michigan at depths up to 110 m. 
BIOLOGY 
An extensive life history of the ninespine stickleback 
in the Apostle Islands (Ashland County) of Lake Su- 
perior was prepared by Griswold and Smith (1972 and 


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