Eutrophication affects mate choice in three-spined sticklebacks

7 July 2011 by GrrlScientist, posted in Uncategorized

SUMMARY: Stickleback fish in the Baltic Sea are having a difficult time finding that special someone — in this video, Dr. Bondar looks into what’s causing all the trouble

The face of a male three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).
Image: Piet Spaans (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Looking for a suitable mate in a nightclub is not a good idea. For starters, the air pollution and darkness makes it difficult to even see who is buying you that drink or trying to get your phone number. The same thing can be said for fish living in the Baltic Sea.

Ulrika Candolin, acting professor of animal ecology at the University of Helsinki in Finland, studies how three-spined sticklebacks (tiddlers), Gasterosteus aculeatus, are adapting to eutrophication. The Baltic Sea is being polluted with chemicals that favour the growth of algae, and this algae “bloom” reduces visibility. This reduced visibility means that female sticklebacks can’t see well enough to find a high-quality mate, so they may end up breeding with the first male that they come across.

Dr Carin Bondar tells us about this research in this short video, which includes a few glimpses of the stunningly beautiful Tvärminne Zoological Station on the Baltic Sea:

Bio Musings with Dr. Carin Bondar – Sticklebacks from Matthew Hawkins on Vimeo.

If you are interested to learn more, here’s a list of Dr Candolin’s publications, many of which are available as free PDFs.
This video was an entry in the 2011 Evolution-Themed Film Festival. All entries were (supposed to be) three minutes or less, and explained a fun fact, key concept, compelling question, or explored an exciting area of evolution research. Entries were intended to be suitable for use in a classroom and so had to be both informative and entertaining. This film festival was organised and hosted by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), an NSF-funded science nonprofit dedicated to cross-disciplinary research in evolution. NESCent can be found on twitter: @NESCent
Filmmaker: Carin Bondar is on twitter @DrBondar and she has her own website.
Team members: Matthew Hawkins and Ulrika Candolin.
twitter: @GrrlScientist

2 Responses to “Eutrophication affects mate choice in three-spined sticklebacks”

  1. Mike Fowler Reply | Permalink

    Wooo! I bet Jan is pleased that they highlighted his research.

    Booo! I bet Jan is disappointed that they couldn’t spell his name correctly. It’s "Jan Heuschele":

    However, as glossy and shiny as this video is, it completely overlooks an important aspect of fish biology – vision is not always the primary sensory input pathway. Olfaction plays crucial roles in all sorts of aspects of fish biology – as well as human biology. That’s not to say that vision isn’t an important component of sexual selection signals in the sticklebacks, nor that eutrophication won’t screw around with other sensory inputs. Just that these questions remain to be studied more carefully.

    I should add that I worked in the same dept as Jan for some time, so know something about his (and Ulrika’s) research, as well as his table football skillz.

  2. GrrlScientist Reply | Permalink

     well, that would explain why i couldn’t find Jan listed on the UHelsinki site! thanks for the correction. 


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