Pelvic anti-predator armour reduction in Norwegian populations of the threespine stickleback: a rare phenomenon with adaptive implications?


  • Editor: Jean-Nicolas Volff

Tom Olav Klepaker, Department of Biology, Aquatic Behavioural Ecology Research Group, University of Bergen, PO Box 7800, N-5020 Bergen, Norway.


In order to search for armour reductions in the anti-predator armour apparatus of the threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, we studied populations from 200 coastal lakes and 32 marine and estuarine sites in Norway. We scored the presence of reductions in the pelvic apparatus in these populations, measured the length of the second dorsal fin and pelvic spine and counted lateral plates in a subset of 96 populations. Then we looked for the relation between pelvic reduction and number of lateral plates and lengths of the second dorsal spine and pelvic spine. We also observed whether pelvic reduced fish had asymmetric development on the right or the left side of the pelvis. Pelvic reduction was not found in marine and estuarine sticklebacks (with one single exception), but in freshwater it occurred in four out of 200 lakes. The amount of pelvic reduction differed from 5% to 68% in the four populations. There appears to be a correlation between pelvic reduction and spine lengths at the population level, but not plate number. Further, it appears to be difficult to explain the occurrence of pelvic reduction in Norway with the factors proposed to be responsible for pelvic reduction in other regions.