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stickleback

stickleback, common name for members of the family Gasterosteidae, small fishes, widely distributed in both fresh- and saltwaters of the Northern Hemisphere. Sticklebacks range from 11/2 to 4 in. (3.7–10 cm) in length and lack true scales; they are equipped with short, strong spines in front of the dorsal and on the ventral fins, the number varying with the species. These are used as offensive and defensive weapons, often against other sticklebacks during the breeding season, when the male is brightly colored and pugnacious. Each male constructs a roofed nest by gluing together bits of vegetation with a sticky secretion from glands near the kidneys. Under his persuasion, several females deposit eggs in the nest, which he guards jealously until well after the young hatch. Sticklebacks feed on smaller invertebrates and on the fry and eggs of other fish. Best known are the three-spined, or common, stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, a coastal species, and the brook stickleback, Calaea inconstans, a smaller freshwater variety. Sticklebacks are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Gasterosteiformes, family Gasterosteidae.

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Gasterosteidae

Gasterosteidae (stickleback; subclass Actinopterygii, order Gasterosteiformes) A small family of marine, brackish, and freshwater fish that tend to have torpedo-shaped bodies, a small mouth, small fins, and a series of separate sharp spines on the back preceding the dorsal fin. The body is scaleless, but may possess rows of scutes at the side. The well-known Gasterosteus aculeatus (three-spined stickleback) grows to 8 cm and can live in fresh as well as salt water. Gasterosteidae are found in temperate waters of the northern hemisphere.

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stickleback

stickleback Small fish found in fresh, brackish, and salt water. It is usually brown and green, and may be identified by the number of spines along its sides and back. The male builds a nest of water plants, and drives the female into it. He then watches the eggs and cares for the young. Length: 8–11cm (3–4.5in). The 12 or so species include the three-spined Gasterosteus aculeatus. Family Gasterosteidae.

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stickleback

stick·le·back / ˈstikəlˌbak/ • n. a small fish (family Gasterosteidae) with sharp spines along its back, able to live in both salt and fresh water and found in both Eurasia and North America. Its several species include the common and widespread three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

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stickleback

stickleback small spiny-finned fish. XV. f. OE. sticels sting, goad, thorn = OHG. stihhil goad, ON. stikill point of a horn, rel. to sticol steep, rough, f. Gmc. *stik- *stek- STICK1 + BACK1.

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stickleback

stickleback See GASTEROSTEIDAE.

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stickleback

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