Nine spined stickleback - Pungitius pungitius 



Summary of issues specific to the Baltic region

The relatively high degree of genetic differentiation in neutral marker genes among different Baltic Sea populations suggests ample opportunities for local adaptation in nine-spined sticklebacks. The contact zone of the two historical lineages in between Denmark and Sweden represents an opportunity for speciation studies

Current management regulations


Gaps between management and scientific evidence

None as there is no management of this species within the Baltic Sea region.


Species Number of  genetic studies Baltic population structure Baltic population diversity Baltic effective population size Temporal data Genetic risks Management recommendations
Nine spined stickleback 6-8 Two distinct lineages meet in Danish straits. Fine-scaled structuring within Baltic. Relatively high Not known  Museum samples available

None known





Summary of key published genetic information

Baltgene project has gathered genetic information from ca. 15 Baltic Sea nine-spined stickleback populations much which is yet to published. Genetic investigations have utilized both mitochondrial DNA sequences and microsatellite loci (up to 22 independent loci), and some preliminary information is also available from +10 000 SNP markers from two Baltic populations. Further, quantitative genetic differentiation in various traits such as growth rate and body size has been assed among few of the Baltic Sea populations.

The degree of genetic differentiation among Baltic Sea populations of nine-spined stickleback is relatively high, suggesting limited connectivity among different populations. Levels of genetic diversity within local populations is relatively high, but apparently lower than in the closely related three-spine sticklebacks.

Two historically divergent lineages – eastern and western – meet at the Danish Straights were they apparently hybridize. Whether the hybrids fertile is not currently known, but under investigation.

Key publications

DeFaveri J., T. Shikano, N. I. Ab Ghani & J. Merilä. Contrasting population structures in two sympatric fishes in the Baltic Sea basin. Submitted manuscript.

Shikano T, Shimada Y, Herczeg G, Merilä J. (2010). History vs. habitat type: explaining the genetic structure of European nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius) populations. Molecular Ecology, 2010, 19/6, 1147-1161. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04553.x. PubMed

Shikano, T., R. Jetty & J. Merilä (2010). Identification of local and habitat dependent selection: Scanning functionally important genes in nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius). Molecular Biology and Evolution 27: 2775-2789.

Teacher AGF, Shikano T, Karjalainen ME, Merilä J (2011). Phylogeography and genetic structuring of European nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) - mitochondrial DNA evidence. PLoS ONE 6(5): e19476. PubMed

More information about the three spined stickleback at IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Natural Resources



CONTRIBUTORS (January 2012)
Juha Merilä and Jaqueline DeFaveri, University of Helsinki, Finland

Responsible editor: Juha Merilä, University of Helsinki, Finland
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