Sticklebacks

Life History & Michigan History

Six species of sticklebacks can be found in North America. Three of the species live in Michigan's waters.

The brook (five-spined) stickleback (Culaea inconstans) prefers cold and semi-clean water habitat. They are most often found in rivers and streams and spring-fed ponds but can be found in near-shore areas of lakes. This is a small (2 inch) fish, greenish to mottled tan in color, with five separate dorsal spines.

Most fish possess an air bladder that can be inflated or deflated to aid in buoyancy. The stickleback is a bottom-dweller and has no need for an air bladder. Another interesting adaptation is the stickleback courtship behavior.

Male sticklebacks build a tubular nest using algae and dead grasses. An opening is left on one end. The male displays in front of the nest to attract a mate. Females enter the nest, lay their eggs, and break out the back of the nest. After fertilizing the eggs, the male guards the nest and young until they leave.

Sticklebacks eat tiny aquatic insects and crustaceans. They help control mosquitoes by eating the insect's larvae.