• adaptation;
  • armour;
  • body shape;
  • common garden;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • predation;
  • Pungitius pungitius

Environmental differences among populations are expected to lead to local adaptation, while spatial or temporal environmental variation within a population will favour evolution of phenotypic plasticity. As plasticity itself can be under selection, locally adapted populations can vary in levels of plasticity. Nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius) originating from isolated ponds (low piscine predation risk, high competition) vs. lake and marine populations (high piscine predation risk, low competition) are known to be morphologically adapted to their respective environments. However, nothing is known about their ability to express phenotypic plasticity in morphology in response to perceived predation risk or food availability/competition. We studied predator-induced phenotypic plasticity in body shape and armour of marine and pond nine-spined stickleback in a factorial common garden experiment with two predator treatments (present vs. absent) and two feeding regimes (low vs. high). The predation treatment did not induce any morphological shifts in fish from either habitat or food regime. However, strong habitat-dependent differences between populations as well as strong sexual dimorphism in both body shape and armour were found. The lack of predator-induced plasticity in development of the defence traits (viz. body armour and body depth) suggests that morphological anti-predator traits in nine-spined stickleback are strictly constitutive, rather than inducible. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ••, ••–••.