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Nine-spined stickleback

Pungitius pungitius

The ninespined stickleback and the three-spined stickleback have a similar ecology. However, the nine-spined seems to be less common and abundant in marine and brackish habitats than the three-spined stickleback. 

Conservation genetic management advice

  • There is no particular genetic management advice communicated or warranted.

Threats to genetic biodiversity

There are no immediate threats to populations or genetic variation.

Knowledge on genetics in the Baltic (2017)

The degree of genetic differentiation between nine-spine stickleback populations is relatively high, in contrast to the three-spined sticklebacks. This suggests limited dispersal ability and thus reduced connectivity among different populations. In accordance, the levels of genetic diversity within local nine-spined populations are relatively high, but lower than in the closely related three-spine sticklebacks.

Two historically divergent lineages
Besides ecological differences between the two species (e.g. migration ability and habitat preferences), differences in their postglacial colonization history of the Baltic Sea also affect the genetic layout of the two species. While the three-spined sticklebacks origin from one single marine colonization, the nine-spined sticklebacks origin from several colonization events. Thus the nine-spined sticklebacks show two historically divergent lineages in the Baltic Sea – one eastern and one western, which meet at the Danish Straights.

The relatively high degree of genetic differentiation in neutral marker genes among different Baltic Sea populations suggests ample opportunities for local adaptation in nine-spined sticklebacks.



Britta Meyer

Additional information

The nine-spined sticklebacks are taxonomically related to the three-spined sticklebacks. Due to their similar distribution, the two species can occur sympatrically in the Baltic Sea. However, the levels of genetic differentiation and diversity of the nine-spine sticklebacks differ from that of the three-spined sticklebacks.

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