Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Current affairs make life hard for stickleback dads

Date:
June 14, 2013
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
This Father’s Day, spare a thought for three-spined stickleback fish – who may have been having a tough time this year, according to biologists.

Stickleback fish.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Leicester

This Father’s Day, spare a thought for three-spined stickleback fish – who may have been having a tough time this year, according to Leicester biologists.

Unlike many nesting animals, it is the three-spined stickleback fathers, rather than mothers, who are responsible for parental care and nest building.

The fish, which live in the sea as well as in lakes and rivers, build their nests during the spring – and the severe rainfall experienced across Europe this spring is likely to have made this task much more strenuous.

Heavy downpours raise river flow rates, meaning that the dads have to work harder to ensure the nests are strong enough to withstand the heavier currents.

The males build nests from algae, sand and debris, which they glue together using a protein called “spiggin”, formed in their kidneys.

They then gather together clutches of eggs from a number of different females, and fertilise them – keeping the eggs safe in the nest. The male fish then guards the eggs and young fry until they are strong enough to swim away.

The heavier flow rates this year mean the fish will have had to produce more of the spiggin in order to keep the nest strong enough to withstand the stronger currents.

Producing spiggin requires energy – meaning fathers have less energy for everything else they need to do.

This could limit the number of babies the father is able to look after each year.

The good news is - the fish appear to be adapting very well.

Three-spined stickleback are regarded as something of an evolutionary “supermodel” due to their remarkable ability to adapt to environmental change.

The fish originally resided solely in the sea, but many found themselves landlocked after the last ice age roughly 10,000 years ago.

Since then, they have made themselves at home in freshwaters across the Northern hemisphere – though there are also plenty still living in the oceans.

University of Leicester researchers have found that the fish may be capable of adapting well to heavier flow rates.

Dr Iain Barber, Head of the University of Leicester’s Department of Biology, is leading a study of three-spined sticklebacks’ nesting habits.

He and his team are observing the fish in their laboratory to see how their behaviour changes for different water flow rates.

The team are careful to ensure the water flow rates are within the spectrum of what the fish would experience in their natural environments.

Dr Barber said: “You don’t really think about fish building nests – but it is actually quite common. With three-spined sticklebacks, it is the males who build the nests and invest considerably in making sure those babies have a good start in life.

“Sticklebacks are subject to all of the changes aquatic habitats are undergoing. If there is a lot of rain in the springtime, as there has been in recent years, it means there is higher water flow in rivers at the time when male sticklebacks are building nests. The results of our studies suggest that this means they need to put more glue into their nests to make them stronger.

“Being a stickleback parent is very demanding. Parental males need to chase off rivals and build nests, and must put all their spare energy into parental care. Producing more of the glue protein is energetically expensive. It is likely to have a knock-on effect on their ability to raise multiple broods.

“Our research has shown that stickleback fish do respond to changes in the environment. One of the predictions about climate change is that rainfall will increase, and become less predictable – with high volumes of rain at unseasonable times of year.

“Sticklebacks appear to be very well adapted to cope with changes in their environment – and can change their nests and nesting habits depending on the water flow levels.”

Dr Barber recently reviewed findings from the ongoing study - along with other research on fish nest building - in the journal Avian Biology Research, which normally only publishes papers about the nesting habits of birds. The paper, entitled The evolutionary ecology of nest construction: insight from recent fish studies, can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/md7j45q.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Iain Barber. The evolutionary ecology of nest construction: insight from recent fish studies. Avian Biology Research, 2013; 6 (2): 83 DOI: 10.3184/175815513X13609538379947

Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Current affairs make life hard for stickleback dads." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614082506.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2013, June 14). Current affairs make life hard for stickleback dads. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614082506.htm
University of Leicester. "Current affairs make life hard for stickleback dads." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614082506.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins