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Keywords:

  • Mediterranean streams;
  • summer drought;
  • somatic condition;
  • fish growth;
  • habitat use;
  • threatened fish

Abstract –  We present the first data on three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) life history and habitat use in seasonal Mediterranean streams, analysing populations from NE Iberian Peninsula. Stickleback populations were strictly annual, with reproduction events involving exclusively 1+ fish. Somatic growth was concentrated in two periods, one in spring and early summer, and another in autumn and winter. During summer there was a clear stop in the somatic growth, coupled with low values of somatic condition. This growth pattern contrasts both with that of other Mediterranean stream fish species and that of stickleback in other European locations. Stickleback populations occupied mainly intermediate locations along fluvial gradients. The presence of abundant aquatic vegetation was identified as one of the main factors related with both stickleback presence and the abundance of its populations, while the latter was also negatively related with that of invasive fish and crayfish species. Stickleback tended to occur in native-dominated fish communities, being almost absent from lower stream reaches, which bear high abundances of invasive fish species.