Ninespine stickleback

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Nine-spined stickleback
Pungitius pungitius.jpg
Pungitius pungitius
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gasterosteiformes
Family: Gasterosteidae
Genus: Pungitius
Species: P. pungitius
Binomial name
Pungitius pungitius
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Gasteracanthus pungitius (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Gasterosteus blanchardi Sauvage, 1874
  • Gasterosteus burgundianus (non Blanchard, 1866)
  • Gasterosteus concinnus Richardson, 1836
  • Gasterosteus dekayi Agassiz, 1850
  • Gasterosteus globiceps Sauvage, 1874
  • Gasterosteus mainensis Storer, 1837
  • Gasterosteus nebulosus Agassiz, 1850
  • Gasterosteus occidentalis Cuvier, 1829
  • Gasterosteus pungitia burgundianus (non Blanchard, 1866)
  • Gasterosteus pungitius Linnaeus, 1758
  • Gasterosteus pungitius brachypoda Bean, 1879
  • Pungitius pungitius pungitius (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Pygosteus pungitius (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Pygosteus pungitius brachypoda (Bean, 1879)
  • Pygosteus pungitius carinata Bertin, 1925
  • Pygosteus pungitius semiarmata Bertin, 1925
  • Pygosteus pungitius trachura Bertin, 1925

The ninespine stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), also called the ten-spined stickleback, is a freshwater species of fish in the Gasterosteidae family that inhabits temperate waters. Widely but locally distributed throughout the UK and along the Atlantic coast of North America, it is also found in many northern and eastern European countries, in Greenland and in Turkey, and in the Far East. Despite its name, the number of spines can vary from 8 to 12.


The body of the ninespine stickleback tapers to a very narrow caudal peduncle and the caudal fin is fan-shaped. The body is less deep and more elongated than that of the three-spined stickleback with a thinner and longer caudal peduncle, but the best way of distinguishing these two species is the number of spines in front of the dorsal fin which, for this species, varies from seven to twelve although nine is the commonest number. This species does not have scales but there is a group of small bony plates on the narrowest part of the caudal peduncle at the lateral line. The mouth points upwards in this species. It is generally greyish or olive-brown with silvery flanks irregularly barred or blotched with darker colour.[1] During the breeding season, the males develop a black area around the pelvis and the pelvic spines become white. The eyes are dark with a gold ring around the pupils.

The ninespine stickleback lives in streams, lakes, ponds and rivers and favors thick submerged vegetation, as its small spines do not offer much protection. Like the three spined stickleback, they have a series of scutes or bony plates along the lateral line but, in freshwater populations, these are frequently reduced in number with a gap between the anterior and posterior plates.


During the breeding season (April to July), the male builds a nest suspended on a piece of waterweed, about an inch or so above the substrate at the bottom. The female is attracted by the male and she lays eggs inside the nest, but then departs, leaving parental care to the male. The male guards these eggs and the young fry when they hatch. Then, when they have their spines, he drives them away to look after themselves.


  1. ^ "Nine-spined stickleback: Pungitius pungitius". NatureGate. Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  • Keivany, Y. 1996. Taxonomic revision of the genus Pungitius with emphasis on P. hellenicus. MSc thesis. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta. Edmonton. 98 pp.
  • Keivany, Y., and J.S. Nelson. 2000. Taxonomic review of the genus Pungitius, ninespine sticklebacks (Teleostei, Gasterosteidae). Cybium, 24(2): 107-122.
  • Keivany, Y. and J.S. Nelson. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships of sticklebacks (Gasterosteidae), with emphasis on ninespine sticklebacks (Pungitius spp.). Behaviour, 141(11/12): 1485-1497.
  • World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1996. Pungitius pungitius. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 5 August 2007.