The Effects of Rearing Environment on Stickleback Behavior

The Effects of Rearing Environment on Stickleback Behavior



William R. Ogburn, Lauren E. Roy


Presentation: 10:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Kennedy Union Ballroom



Anthropogenic influences cause rapid changes in aquatic habitats, both because current habitats are being rapidly destroyed or degraded while new habitats are being created. These extreme environmental changes can reduce the fitness of organisms living in those environments by increasing stress levels, stunting growth, and making organisms more vulnerable to predation. We are unaware of how changing environments alter optimal behavior and if plastic responses can be observed in fish. Three-spined sticklebacks are a highly plastic fish that experience a wide range of habitats and predators. In this experiment, we reared fry in one of two environmental extremes –bare and covered– to explore how the ecological environment encountered during development affects growth, mortality rate, how individuals utilize their environments, and their antipredator response. From these trials we found that individuals of both treatment groups spend significantly more time under cover and less time in the bare area after the predator attack compared to before. This suggests that the predator stimulus did work, and that all fish perceive cover as a ‘safe’ environment. However, offspring reared in a covered environment spend more time under cover, both under baseline conditions and after the predator attack. Offspring reared in a covered environment tend to be smaller than those reared in a bare environment. There was no difference in body condition and survival in bare environments tended to be lower than survival in covered environments.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Jennifer Hellmann

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Life Below Water

The Effects of Rearing Environment on Stickleback Behavior