Nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius): an emerging model for evolutionary biology research

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013 Jun;1289:18-35. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12089. Epub 2013 Mar 29.


The nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius) is emerging as a model for evolutionary biology, genetic, and behavioral research in the wake of its better-known relative, the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). This interest has been fed by its fascinating biological features, such as the repeated evolution of similar phenotypes in isolated pond populations. A large body of recent research has uncovered the finding that pond nine-spined sticklebacks have evolved numerous morphological, life history, neuroanatomical, and behavioral adaptations-possibly in response to reduced threat of fish predation-which differentiate them from their marine conspecifics. These features, together with insights from recent population genetic studies, suggest that this species provides an interesting model for studies aiming to understand-and differentiate between-genetic convergence and parallelism as underlying mechanism(s) of evolution of similar phenotypes in multiple independent sites. This review provides a synopsis of and reflections on the insights borne out of recent studies of nine-spined sticklebacks-the little sister of ecology's "new supermodel."

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Size
  • Ecology
  • Fishes / genetics
  • Genetic Variation
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phenotype
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Smegmamorpha / genetics*
  • Smegmamorpha / physiology*