/stik"euhl bak'/, n.
any of the small, pugnacious, spiny-backed fishes of the family Gasterosteidae, inhabiting northern fresh waters and sea inlets, the male of which builds and guards the nest. Also called prickleback.
[1400-50; late ME stykylbak, equiv. to OE sticol scaly + baec BACK1]

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Any of about 12 species (family Gasterosteidae) of slender, scaleless fishes inhabiting temperate fresh and salt waters of the Northern Hemisphere.

Sticklebacks grow to 6 in. (15 cm) long. They have a row of spines on the back, in front of a soft-rayed dorsal fin, and a sharp spine in each of the pelvic fins. They also have a slender tail base, a squared tail, and hard armour plates on their sides. The male builds a nest of plant materials and coaxes one or more females into it to lay eggs, fertilizes the eggs in the nest, and aggressively defends eggs and young.

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      any of about eight species of fishes (fish) in five genera of the family Gasterosteidae (order Gasterosteiformes (gasterosteiform)) found in fresh, brackish, and marine waters in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere as far north as the Arctic Ocean. Sticklebacks are small, elongated fishes that reach a maximum length of about 18 cm (7 inches). The members of the family are characterized by a row of 2 to 16 spines on the back, which are positioned in front of a soft-rayed dorsal fin. They also possess a sharp spine in each of the pelvic fins, a slender caudal peduncle (tail base), a squared tail, large eyes, and an upturned mouth. The scaleless skin is generally protected by a variable number of hard, thin, bony plates on the sides of the body.

      Sticklebacks are noted for their highly ritualized reproductive behaviour. Breeding usually takes place in spring, at which time the male becomes suffused with colour. Depending on the species, his colour ranges from red to yellow-orange to black. After building a nest of plant materials glued together by threadlike, mucous secretions from his kidneys, the male coaxes and drives a female into the nest to lay her eggs (egg). He then follows her into the nest to fertilize the eggs. More than one female may be chosen, and each female may lay up to 200 eggs. When the nest is full, the male becomes its guard and caretaker; by fanning the eggs with his pectoral fins, he aerates them until they hatch, and he aggressively defends the eggs and any young from intruders. Parental care is given by the males in all but the white stickleback (Gasterosteus species).

      Several stickleback species are familiar and abundant fishes. The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is widespread in the Northern Hemisphere in fresh and salt water. It is 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) long and has three dorsal spines. The nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), a species that is similar in size to G. aculeatus but has more dorsal spines, is another widely distributed form found in the Northern Hemisphere. Other stickleback species include the brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans), an inhabitant of North American fresh waters; the four-spined stickleback (Apeltes quadracus), a species found in marine and freshwater environments of North America; and the sea, or 15-spined, stickleback (Spinachia spinachia), a species found off the coasts of the British Isles and northwestern Europe.

Elanor Bell Amanda Vincent

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Stickleback — Stic kle*back , n. [OE. & Prov E. stickle a prickle, spine, sting (AS. sticel) + back. See {Stick}, v. t., and cf. {Banstickle}.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any one of numerous species of small fishes of the genus {Gasterosteus} and allied genera. The back is… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • stickleback — c.1400, from O.E. sticel prick, sting (from P.Gmc. *stik pierce, prick, be sharp; see STICK (Cf. stick) (v.)) + BACK (Cf. back) …   Etymology dictionary

  • stickleback — ► NOUN ▪ a small freshwater or coastal fish with sharp spines along its back. ORIGIN from Old English words meaning «thorn, sting» + «back» …   English terms dictionary

  • stickleback — [stik′əl bak΄] n. [ME stykylbak < OE sticel, a prick, sting < base of sticca (see STICK) + ME bak,BACK1] any of a family (Gasterosteidae, order Gasterosteiformes) of small, bony plated, marine and freshwater bony fishes with two to eleven… …   English World dictionary

  • Stickleback — Taxobox name = Sticklebacks image width = 250px image caption = Three spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Actinopterygii ordo = Gasterosteiformes familia = Gasterosteidae subdivision ranks =… …   Wikipedia

  • stickleback — /ˈstɪkəlbæk / (say stikuhlbak) noun (plural stickleback or sticklebacks) any of the small, pugnacious, spiny backed fishes of the family Gasterosteidae, of fresh waters and sea inlets, especially Gasterosteus aculeatus, the three spined… …  

  • stickleback — UK [ˈstɪk(ə)lˌbæk] / US noun [countable] Word forms stickleback : singular stickleback plural sticklebacks a small fish with sharp points along its back that lives in rivers …   English dictionary

  • stickleback — [[t]stɪ̱k(ə)lbæk[/t]] sticklebacks N COUNT A stickleback is a small fish which has sharp points along its back …   English dictionary

  • stickleback — noun a small freshwater or coastal fish with sharp spines along its back. [Gasterosteus aculeatus (three spined stickleback) and other species.] Origin ME: from OE sticel thorn, sting + bæc back …   English new terms dictionary

  • Stickleback (disambiguation) — Stickleback can also refer to:*Stickleback, a type of fish *Stickleback (comics), a 2000 AD series by Ian Edginton and D Israeli *USS Stickleback (SS 415), a United States Navy submarine * [ Stickleback …   Wikipedia

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