Population biology of three-spined sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus, in Scotland



The age of maturation, longevity and aspects of anti-predator morphology were studied for seven Gasterosteus aculeatus L. populations in Scotland during 1978 and 1979. All seven populations are annual with less than 1% of adults surviving a second year. At the four mainland study sites, breeding adult sticklebacks were larger than at any of the three Hebridean sites. Adult females were larger than adult males at all sites, except Lennox Castle where parasitism may account for the lack of sexual dimorphism. Two of the Hebridean sites, Loch Fada and Loch a Bharpa have spine-deficient G. aculeatus populations which are morphologically unprotected from predation. In the five normally spined populations, some aspects of defensive morphology (index of increase in critical dimension, ventral spine size) are associated with predation risk, while others (lateral plate number) are not. These data are discussed in relation to the current stickleback literature.