Flow regime affects building behaviour and nest structure in sticklebacks

Ben J. Rushbrook, Megan L. Head, Ioanna Katsiadaki, Iain Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (SciVal)


Animals usually build nests to provide protection, for themselves or their offspring, from adverse environmental conditions. However, different nest structures may be better at providing protection in different environments. The ability to adjust building behaviour and design of nests in response to variation in environmental conditions is therefore likely to be important in determining individual fitness. Here, we look at how the nests of three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) males differ between still and flowing water conditions. Within flowing water treatments, we find that males select nesting sites with lower than average flow. We also find that nests built in flowing water are smaller and more streamlined than those built in still water. Nests built in flowing water contain more spiggin-an endogenous glycoprotein secreted by nesting males-per gramme of nest material than still water nests, though the absolute spiggin content of nests did not vary with flow regime. These results suggest that male sticklebacks may adjust nest-site selection and nest structure to suit environmental conditions in which they are building. Because flow regime is a factor that is often altered by anthropogenic activities, such as impoundment, channelization and abstraction, this study may also have implications for the conservation of freshwater fish populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1927-1935
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number12
Early online date20 Jul 2010
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2010


  • Nest building
  • Stickleback
  • Animal construction
  • Spiggin
  • Phenotypic plasticity


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