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Related subjects: Insects, Reptiles and Fish

Background Information

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Three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gasterosteiformes
Family: Gasterosteidae

See text for species.

Fish in the Faroe Islands:
Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
Faroese stamp issued: 7 Feb 1994
Artist: Astrid Andreasen

The Gasterosteidae are a family of fish including the sticklebacks. FishBase currently recognises sixteen species in the family, grouped in five genera. However several of the species have a number of recognised subspecies, and the taxonomy of the family is thought to be in need of revision. Although some authorities give the common name of the family as "sticklebacks and tube-snouts", the tube-snouts are currently classified in the related family Aulorhynchidae.

The family includes the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus aculeatus, common in Northern Temperate Climates around the world including Europe, Alaska, and Japan and colloquially known in United Kingdom as the "tiddler", or "sprick". Niko Tinbergen's studies of the behaviour of this fish were important in the early development of ethology as an example of a fixed action pattern.


  • Genus Apeltes

Mayer, 1956.

    • Gasterosteus microcephalus Girard, 1854.
    • Blackspotted stickleback, Gasterosteus wheatlandi Putnam, 1867.
  • Genus Pungitius
    • Pungitius hellenicus Stephanidis, 1971.
    • Pungitius kaibarae (Tanaka, 1915).
    • Smoothtail ninespine stickleback, Pungitius laevis ( Cuvier, 1829).
    • Southern ninespine stickleback, Pungitius platygaster (Kessler, 1859).
    • Ninespine stickleback, Pungitius pungitius (Linnaeus, 1758).
    • Amur stickleback, Pungitius sinensis (Guichenot, 1869).
    • Sakhalin stickleback, Pungitius tymensis (Nikolskii, 1889).
  • Genus Spinachia
    • Sea stickleback, Spinachia spinachia (Linnaeus, 1758).

One unusual features of sticklebacks is that they have no scales, although some species have bony armour plates. They are closely related to pipefish and seahorses.

In Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, the title character catches a stickleback, only to regret his catch and incur the laughter of the tiny fish in his pond.

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