Browsing by Subject "Gasterosteus aculeatus"

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  • Yurtseva, Anastasia; Noreikiene, Kristina; Lajus, Dmitry; Li, Zitong; Alapassi, Tarja; Ivanova, Tatiana; Ivanov, Mikhail; Golovin, Pavel; Vesala, Sami; Merilä, Juha (2019)
    In order to assess the accuracy and reliability of age estimates from calcified structures in the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, we evaluated intra and inter-reader repeatability from three structures: otoliths, gill covers and pelvic spines). Average age estimates were also compared between the structures. The overall intra-reader repeatability of age estimates were highest for otoliths (69%), lowest for gill covers (53%) and intermediate for spine cross-sections (63%). Although four of the seven readers had the highest intra-reader repeatability score for spine cross-sections, the inter-reader variance in this structure was much higher than in others. Otoliths were the easiest in terms of their pre-analysis treatment and exchange of materials (as digital images) between readers. In addition, otoliths are more well-studied compared with the other structures with respect to their development through ontogenesis; hence, age estimates based on otoliths should be the most reliable. Therefore, our recommendation is that whenever possible, analysis of otoliths should be the preferred approach for aging G. aculeatus.
  • Dahms, Carolin; Kemppainen, Petri; Zanella, Linda N.; Zanella, Davor; Carosi, Antonella; Merilä, Juha; Momigliano, Paolo (2022)
    The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) has repeatedly and independently adapted to freshwater habitats from standing genetic variation (SGV) following colonization from the sea. However, in the Mediterranean Sea G. aculeatus is believed to have gone extinct, and thus the spread of locally adapted alleles between different freshwater populations via the sea since then has been highly unlikely. This is expected to limit parallel evolution, that is the extent to which phylogenetically related alleles can be shared among independently colonized freshwater populations. Using whole genome and 2b-RAD sequencing data, we compared levels of genetic differentiation and genetic parallelism of 15 Adriatic stickleback populations to 19 Pacific, Atlantic and Caspian populations, where gene flow between freshwater populations across extant marine populations is still possible. Our findings support previous studies suggesting that Adriatic populations are highly differentiated (average F-ST approximate to 0.45), of low genetic diversity and connectivity, and likely to stem from multiple independent colonizations during the Pleistocene. Linkage disequilibrium network analyses in combination with linear mixed models nevertheless revealed several parallel marine-freshwater differentiated genomic regions, although still not to the extent observed elsewhere in the world. We hypothesize that current levels of genetic parallelism in the Adriatic lineages are a relic of freshwater adaptation from SGV prior to the extinction of marine sticklebacks in the Mediterranean that has persisted despite substantial genetic drift experienced by the Adriatic stickleback isolates.
  • Berner, Daniel; Roesti, Marius; Bilobram, Steven; Chan, Simon K.; Kirk, Heather; Pandoh, Pawan; Taylor, Gregory A.; Zhao, Yongjun; Jones, Steven J. M.; DeFaveri, Jacquelin (2019)
    The threespine stickleback is a geographically widespread and ecologically highly diverse fish that has emerged as a powerful model system for evolutionary genomics and developmental biology. Investigations in this species currently rely on a single high-quality reference genome, but would benefit from the availability of additional, independently sequenced and assembled genomes. We present here the assembly of four new stickleback genomes, based on the sequencing of microfluidic partitioned DNA libraries. The base pair lengths of the four genomes reach 92-101% of the standard reference genome length. Together with their de novo gene annotation, these assemblies offer a resource enhancing genomic investigations in stickleback. The genomes and their annotations are available from the Dryad Digital Repository (
  • Lanki, Maiju (Helsingfors universitet, 2013)
    Adaptive radiation is an important mechanism of evolution, which can lead to emergence of sympatric species or morphotypes. Among other biological interactions, parasitic pressure can have significant evolutionary implications for host populations by reducing the fitness of the host individuals. Parasite community structure of fishes is typically strongly dependent on both host ecology (e.g. habitat and feeding behaviour) and environmental factors (e.g. water quality and temperature). However, the relative importance of these factors for parasite-mediated speciation is not known. Also, host gender-specific differences in parasite communities can have an effect on the differentiation of host morphs. In this Master's thesis, I focused on differences in parasite communities of sympatric morphs of three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in two large Icelandic lakes, Thingvallavatn and Mývatn. In these lakes, the habitats of sympatric mud and lava morphs are the same (soft/hard bottom), but the habitat water temperatures are opposite between the lakes. In this unique system, it is thus possible to compare between the effects of host ecology and water temperature on parasite community structure and strength of parasite-mediated selection. Additionally, I studied the effect of host sex on the parasitic pressure. There is also a third stickleback morph, Nitella morph, inhabiting the cold limnetic habitats in Lake Thingvallavatn. I sampled the stickleback morphs from both lakes and identified their parasite species. I discovered a total of five parasite genera: trematodes Apatemon and Diplostomum, and cestodes Diphyllobothrium, Proteocephalus and Schistocephalus. Most of the observed parasites have negative effects on health and fitness of the host. I found more parasites in sticklebacks living in higher temperature in both lakes regardless of the morph. When comparing the cold water morphs in Thingvallavatn, parasite abundance was higher in the limnetic Nitella morph than in the shallow water lava morph. Fish gender had an effect on parasitism only in Thingvallavatn as males of both lava and Nitella morphs were more heavily infected with cestodes. Similarities in parasite communities with water temperature indicate that water temperature mainly determines parasite infections in this system instead of host ecology. As similar fish morphotypes exist in different lakes under opposite parasitic pressure, parasitism has unlikely initiated host differentiation, but differences in infection probably have emerged secondary to the ecological specialization of the morphs to different habitats. These results are among the first to tackle the key question in parasite-mediated divergent selection: at which point of the speciation process parasite communities become differentiated and thus can have an effect on speciation. However, the comparison between the cold water morphs (lava and Nitella) indicates that although water temperature seems to be the main factor controlling infections in this system, its effect may still be over ridden by host ecology. Sex-depended differences in parasitic pressure, on the other hand, are likely to reflect specific characteristics of each fish population and lake. These results suggest complex interactions between host ecology and abiotic environment, such as water temperature, in determining the parasite community structure. Hence both factors have to take into consideration when studying the role of parasites in speciation processes. In future, it is necessary to pinpoint the stage of the host speciation process when parasite infections become differentiated in replicated systems to gain comprehensive understanding of the role of parasites in adaptive radiations.
  • Herczeg, Gabor; Gonda, Maria Abigel; Balazs, Gergely; Noreikiene, Kristina; Merila, Juha (2015)
    Background: Plasticity in brain size and the size of different brain regions during early ontogeny is known from many vertebrate taxa, but less is known about plasticity in the brains of adults. In contrast to mammals and birds, most parts of a fish's brain continue to undergo neurogenesis throughout adulthood, making lifelong plasticity in brain size possible. We tested whether maturing adult three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) reared in a stimulus-poor environment exhibited brain plasticity in response to environmental enrichment, and whether these responses were sex-specific, thus altering the degree of sexual size dimorphism in the brain. Results: Relative sizes of total brain and bulbus olfactorius showed sex-specific responses to treatment: males developed larger brains but smaller bulbi olfactorii than females in the enriched treatment. Hence, the degree of sexual size dimorphism (SSD) in relative brain size and the relative size of the bulbus olfactorius was found to be environment-dependent. Furthermore, the enriched treatment induced development of smaller tecta optica in both sexes. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that adult fish can alter the size of their brain (or brain regions) in response to environmental stimuli, and these responses can be sex-specific. Hence, the degree of SSD in brain size can be environment-dependent, and our results hint at the possibility of a large plastic component to SSD in stickleback brains. Apart from contributing to our understanding of the processes shaping and explaining variation in brain size and the size of different brain regions in the wild, the results show that provision of structural complexity in captive environments can influence brain development. Assuming that the observed plasticity influences fish behaviour, these findings may also have relevance for fish stocking, both for economical and conservational purposes.
  • Candolin, U.; Voigt, H.-R. (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
    Experiments are often carried out in the laboratory under arti®cial conditions. Although this can control for confounding factors, it may eliminate important factors that under natural conditions mediate the interaction under investigation. Here, we show that different results can be gained in the ®eld and in the laboratory regarding host±parasite interaction. In the ®eld, courting three-spined stickleback males, Gasterosteus aculeatus, were less often infected with plerocercoids of a cestode tapeworm, Schistocephalus solidus, than shoaling males. However, when a random sample of males was allowed to nest and court females in individual aquaria in the laboratory, both uninfected and infected males built nests and courted females. Moreover, while the few infected males that courted females in the ®eld expressed less red nuptial coloration than uninfected courting males, there was no difference in redness between infected and uninfected males in the laboratory. We argue that the different results gained in the ®eld and in the laboratory are due to differences in the cost of reproduction, due to differences in the resource pool of the males. The favourable conditions in the laboratory exclude factors such as predation risk, social interactions, and ¯uctuating environmental conditions that may use up resources in the ®eld and mediate the effect of the parasite.
  • Granroth-Wilding, Hanna M. V.; Candolin, Ulrika (2022)
    As climate change progresses, thermal stress is expected to alter the way that host organisms respond to infections by pathogens and parasites, with consequences for the fitness and hence population processes of both host and parasite. We used a correlational natural experiment to examine how temperature differences shape the impact of the cestode parasite Schistocephalus solidus on its host, the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Previous laboratory work has found that high temperatures benefit S. solidus while being detrimental to the stickleback. Our study sought to emulate this design in the wild, repeatedly sampling naturally infected and uninfected fish at matched warmer and cooler locations in the Baltic Sea. In our wild study, we found little evidence that temperature was associated with the host-parasite interaction. While infection reduced host condition and reproductive status overall, these effects did not vary with temperature. Host fitness indicators correlated to some extent with temperature, with cooler capture sites associated with larger size but warmer sites with improved reproductive potential. Parasite fitness (prevalence or size) was not correlated with temperature at the capture site. These mismatches between laboratory and field outcomes illustrate how findings from well-controlled laboratory experiments may not fully reflect processes in more variable natural settings. Nonetheless, our findings indicate that temperature can influence host fitness regardless of infection, with potential consequences for both host demography and parasite transmission dynamics in this complex system.
  • Coll Costa, Carla Jr (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is a model organism for studies of parallel evolution in the wild; marine stickleback populations have repeatedly colonized and successfully adapted to different brackish and freshwater habitats. During Pleistocene glaciations, three-spined stickleback populations inhabiting high-latitude areas of Europe were eradicated, whereas populations residing in (or moving to) the south persisted in refugia. After the retreat of the ice sheets covering northern Europe, the high-latitude areas became recolonized by migration from south, and hence, today’s northern European populations are relatively young. Population genetic studies of European three-spined sticklebacks have usually been conducted at high-latitude areas where freshwater populations are typically less than 10.000 years old. Few studies have focused on southern populations, where more of the ancestral diversity is likely to reside. These studies have utilized a limited number of microsatellite markers and mtDNA sequence fragments, whereas studies of southern populations focusing on genome-wide diversity, in particular from the edge of the southern distribution limit in the Iberian Peninsula, are still missing. Here, I wanted to cover this gap in knowledge by carrying out an empirical and statistical study with RAD-seq data from southern and northern European populations of three-spined stickleback. The main aims of this study were two-fold. First, to investigate whether the southern European freshwater populations of the three-spined stickleback – which currently lack or have limited connection to ancestral marine populations carrying most of the standing genetic variation (SGV) – have lost genetic diversity due to population bottlenecks and inbreeding as compared to their northern European counterparts. Second, to compare the degree of genetic parallelism in southern vs. northern European populations in genomic regions which have been shown to be consistently associated with freshwater colonization in earlier studies. Under the assumption that the lack of continued access to SGV in the ancestral marine population reduces the likelihood of parallel evolution, I hypothesized that the degree of genetic parallelism in genomic regions subject to positive selection in freshwater environments is lower in the southern than in northern European populations. However, if a reduction in genetic diversity and/or cessation of gene flow between southern European freshwater and marine populations occurred following freshwater adaptation, the opposite pattern could be expected. I paid particular attention to chromosomal inversions associated with marine-freshwater adaptations identified in previous studies. The results confirmed my expectation of reduced genetic diversity in southern as compared to northern European stickleback populations. On the other hand, and contrary to what I expected, analysis of clusters of global parallelism involved in freshwater adaptation revealed that southern European populations exhibit a higher degree of genetic parallelism in response to freshwater colonisation than those from northern Europe. This suggests that the loss of genetic diversity in southern populations has occurred after they had adapted to freshwater environments, explaining the high degree of genetic parallelism in spite of the current low levels of genetic diversity. In addition, it could be that selection pressures in south are more homogenous than in north, which would also explain the higher degree of genetic parallelism observed in southern Europe. The findings presented here, challenge the current paradigm that parallel evolution is unlikely in populations with low genetic diversity and that have experienced recent bottlenecks.
  • Morozov, Sergey; Leinonen, Tuomas; Merilä, Juha; McCairns, R. J. Scott (2018)
    Conspecifics inhabiting divergent environments frequently differ in morphology, physiology, and performance, but the interrelationships amongst traits and with Darwinian fitness remains poorly understood. We investigated population differentiation in morphology, metabolic rate, and swimming performance in three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus L.), contrasting a marine/ancestral population with two distinct freshwater morphotypes derived from it: the typical low-plated morph, and a unique small-plated morph. We test the hypothesis that similar to plate loss in other freshwater populations, reduction in lateral plate size also evolved in response to selection. Additionally, we test how morphology, physiology, and performance have evolved in concert as a response to differences in selection between marine and freshwater environments. We raised pure-bred second-generation fish originating from three populations and quantified their lateral plate coverage, burst- and critical swimming speeds, as well as standard and active metabolic rates. Using a multivariate Q(ST)-F-ST framework, we detected signals of directional selection on metabolic physiology and lateral plate coverage, notably demonstrating that selection is responsible for the reduction in lateral plate coverage in a small-plated stickleback population. We also uncovered signals of multivariate selection amongst all bivariate trait combinations except the two metrics of swimming performance. Divergence between the freshwater and marine populations exceeded neutral expectation in morphology and in most physiological and performance traits, indicating that adaptation to freshwater habitats has occurred, but through different combinations of traits in different populations. These results highlight both the complex interplay between morphology, physiology and performance in local adaptation, and a framework for their investigation.
  • Sutela, Tapio; Vehanen, Teppo; Jounela, Pekka; Aroviita, Jukka (John Wiley & Sons, 2021)
    Ecology and Evolution 11 (15), 10457-10467
    Species–environment relationships were studied between the occurrence of 13 fish and lamprey species and 9 mainly map-based environmental variables of Finnish boreal small streams. A self-organizing map (SOM) analysis showed strong relationships between the fish species and environmental variables in a single model (explained variance 55.9%). Besides basic environmental variables such as altitude, catchment size, and mean temperature, land cover variables were also explored. A logistic regression analysis indicated that the occurrence probability of brown trout, Salmo trutta L., decreased with an increasing percentage of peatland ditch drainage in the upper catchment. Ninespine stickleback, Pungitius pungitius (L.), and three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus L., seemed to benefit from urban areas in the upper catchment. Discovered relationships between fish species occurrence and land-use attributes are encouraging for the development of fish-based bioassessment for small streams. The presented ordination of the fish species in the mean temperature gradient will help in predicting fish community responses to climate change.
  • Helenius, Laura K.; Padros, Anna Ayma; Leskinen, Elina; Lehtonen, Hannu; Nurminen, Leena (2015)
    Planktivorous fish can exert strong top-down control on zooplankton communities. By incorporating different feeding strategies, from selective particulate feeding to cruising filter feeding, fish species target distinct prey. In this study, we investigated the effects of two species with different feeding strategies, the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus (L.)) and roach (Rutilus rutilus (L.)), on a low-diversity brackish water zooplankton community using a 16-day mesocosm experiment. The experiment was conducted on a small-bodied spring zooplankton community in high-nutrient conditions, as well as a large-bodied summer community in low-nutrient conditions. Effects were highly dependent on the initial zooplankton community structure and hence seasonal variation. In a small-bodied community with high predation pressure and no dispersal or migration, the selective particulate-feeding stickleback depleted the zooplankton community and decreased its diversity more radically than the cruising filter-feeding roach. Cladocerans rather than copepods were efficiently removed by predation, and their removal caused altered patterns in rotifer abundance. In a large-bodied summer community with initial high taxonomic and functional diversity, predation pressure was lower and resource availability was high for omnivorous crustaceans preying on other zooplankton. In this community, predation maintained diversity, regardless of predator species. During both experimental periods, predation influenced the competitive relationship between the dominant calanoid copepods, and altered species composition and size structure of the zooplankton community. Changes also occurred to an extent at the level of nontarget prey, such as microzooplankton and rotifers, emphasizing the importance of subtle predation effects. We discuss our results in the context of the adaptive foraging mechanism and relate them to the natural littoral community.
  • Isotalo, Teija (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Anthropogenic activity has enhanced global warming at alarming rates, causing temperatures to increase and heat waves to occur more frequently. The effects of global warming are prominent in aquatic ecosystems, particularly in the Baltic Sea. Temperature increases and fluctuations in the Baltic Sea create a changing environment and this can affect inhabiting species’ behaviors, specifically behaviors during reproduction. Reproductive behavior influences both the number and quality of offspring born into a population therefore making behavior changes during reproduction important to study. The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), an ectothermic animal, inhabits the Baltic Sea and is an ideal species to study reproductive behavioral changes. Although previous studies have researched three-spined sticklebacks in changing environments, none had specifically looked into the effects of rising temperatures and temperature fluctuations on male three-spined stickleback reproductive behavior. The three-spined stickleback is of particular interest because it reproduces in shallow waters which tend to be more affected by temperature changes. In this study, I aimed to investigate behavioral responses of stickleback males to higher temperatures and to temperature fluctuations during reproduction, as well as the consequences the responses have for reproductive success and the viability of offspring. In order to see how this species would cope with rising temperatures and heat waves during reproduction, a comparative climate chamber experiment was executed in Southern Finland at Tvärminne Zoological Station. Males were housed in either 19°C or 14°C for two breeding cycles, and for the second breeding cycle eight males switched temperatures to experience a temperature fluctuation. Results show that during reproduction, three-spined sticklebacks respond to higher temperatures with increased courtship activity, increased parental activity, quicker breeding cycles, and more weight lost. Parental care activity in constant high temperature decreases from the first to the second breeding cycle, while parental activity in constant low temperature increases. During temperature fluctuations, males experiencing a rise in temperature increase their parental care activity, while males experiencing a drop in temperature demonstrate the opposite. However, no significant consequences of temperature and temperature changes for reproductive success and the viability of offspring were detected during the two breeding cycles. Overall, the results of this study would indicate that the three-spined stickleback will prove to be a resilient species, and maintain population growth in the face of increased temperatures and temperature fluctuations in the Baltic Sea.
  • Buechel, Severine D.; Noreikiene, Kristina; DeFaveri, Jacquelin; Toli, Elisavet; Kolm, Niclas; Merila, Juha (2019)
    Snapshot analyses have demonstrated dramatic intraspecific variation in the degree of brain sexual size dimorphism (SSD). Although brain SSDis believed to be generated by the sex-specific cognitive demands of reproduction, the relative roles of developmental and population-specific contributions to variation in brain SSD remain little studied. Using a common garden experiment, we tested for sex-specific changes in brain anatomy over the breeding cycle in three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) sampled from four locations in northern Europe. We found that the male brain increased in size (ca. 24%) significantly more than the female brain towards breeding, and that the resulting brain SSD was similar (ca. 20%) for all populations over the breeding cycle. Our findings support the notion that the stickleback brain is highly plastic and changes over the breeding cycle, especially in males, likely as an adaptive response to the cognitive demands of reproduction (e.g. nest construction and parental care). The results also provide evidence to suggest that breeding-related changes in brain size may be the reason for the widely varying estimates of brain SSD across studies of this species, cautioning against interpreting brain size measurements from a single time point as fixed/static.