Little Quarry Lake Limnetic Threespine Stickleback

Gasterosteus aculeatus

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

Little Quarry Lake Benthic and Limnetic Threespine Sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) are one of several unique Threespine Stickleback Species Pairs that live in sympatry. Two species are sympatric when they exist in the same area, and evolved together from the same common ancestor. Despite similarities, genetic research supports that each pair evolved separately. The divergence from their common ancestor is thought to have occurred because of the limited competition and predation in their habitat. Benthic and Limnetic Sticklebacks occupy different parts of their shared environment and have adapted different feeding styles.

The Little Quarry Lake Limnetic Threespine Stickleback is a small fish. The species has three (sometimes two) isolated dorsal spines. The Limnetic species can be distinguished from the Benthic species by its shallower and smaller body, longer dorsal and anal fins, larger eye, and upward mouth. Both Limnetic and Benthic species develop a bright red throat during breeding season.

Habitat

The distribution of Little Quarry Lake Benthic and Limnetic Sticklebacks is very restricted. The two species are only found in Little Quarry Lake on Nelson Island in British Columbia.

Little Quarry Lake Limnetic Threespine Sticklebacks primarily live in open water. Both Limnetic and Benthic species nest in nearshore gentle sloping silt, sand, or gravel beaches. However, Little Quarry Lake Limnetic Threespine Sticklebacks prefer to spawn in more open areas than the Benthic species. Natural light is necessary for the species to recognize their mates. Once emerging from nests, Limnetic fry use inshore areas for food and protection. They eventually move offshore to open water. Both Limnetic and Benthic species move to deeper water habitats to overwinter.

Threats

Threats to Little Quarry Lake Benthic and Limnetic Threespine Sticklebacks are similar to those for other Stickleback Species Pairs. These fish are vulnerable to any habitat disruptions that could remove the naturally created barriers between the two species. The primary threat to the Little Quarry Lake Limnetic Threespine Stickleback is the introduction of new species into Little Quarry Lake. Introduced species could prey on the Threespine Stickleback species and/or disrupt the habitat requirements of the pair. This has been seen in recent decades and caused the extinction of at least two Stickleback Species Pairs.

Other threats to the Stickleback Species Pair include changes in water use by local recreational properties, forestry activities, and excessive scientific collections. Current land and water use within the habitat of Little Quarry Lake Benthic and Limnetic Threespine Sticklebacks is minimal and has had a limited effect to date.

Further Information

In 2007, a Recovery Strategy was published for Paxton Lake, Enos Lake, and Vananda Creek Stickleback Species Pairs. This Recovery Strategy describes the following for the Stickleback Species Pairs: biology, threats, recovery measures, and stewardship. Scientific collection guidelines for Stickleback Species Pairs, including the Little Quarry Lake Sticklebacks, were developed in 2008, with the aim to mitigate impacts of research activities. 

This species is under consideration for listing as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

To find out more on how this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' website.

Little Quarry Lake Limnetic Threespine Stickleback

Scientific name: Gasterosteus aculeatus
SARA Status: Under Consideration
COSEWIC Status: Threatened (November 2015)
Region: British Columbia

Region map

Region map, British Columbia

Did You Know?

Benthic and Limnetic Threespine Stickleback Species Pairs have evolved recently from their marine ancestors following the end of the last glaciation. This was just 13,000 years ago! Genetic evidence strongly supports the independent evolution of each pair, despite the similarities seen between pairs. The details of each pair’s origin are still not well understood.

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