Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Gasterosteiformes
(Sticklebacks and seamoths) > Gasterosteidae
(Sticklebacks and tubesnouts)
Etymology: Pungitius: Latin, pungitius = prickling (Ref. 45335).
Name often misapplied for Pungitius laevis (Cuvier, 1829) that replaces Pungitius pungitius in nothwesternmost Europe.
Environment / Climate / Range
Marine; freshwater; brackish; benthopelagic; anadromous (Ref. 51243); depth range ? - 110 m (Ref. 58426), usually 70 - 77 m (Ref. 1998). Temperate; 10°C - 20°C (Ref. 1672); 82°N - 35°N, 180°W - 180°E
Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm 3.7  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 9.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 27547); common length : 6.5 cm NG male/unsexed; (Ref. 27547); max. reported age: 5 years (Ref. 27547)
(total): 6 - 12;
soft rays: 8 - 13;
Vertebrae: 30 - 35. Distinguished uniquely from congeners in Europe by having scutes on side of caudal peduncle, forming a keel. Differs further from other members of the genus in Europe by the combination of the following characters: flank lacking scutes; dorsal fin with 7-11 spines; and caudal peduncle wider than deep (Ref. 59043). Distinguished by the presence of 7 to 12 free spines in front of the dorsal fin and a long caudal keel that usually reaches beneath the dorsal fin (Ref. 27547). Dorsal spines separated from one another, each with a rudimentary membrane on its posterior side; anal spine stout and curved; posterior edge of pectorals rounded; pelvic ray pressed close to the spine; caudal fin usually truncate, varying from slightly indented to slightly rounded (Ref. 27547). Pale green, grey, or olive above, strongly pigmented with irregularly arranged dark bars or blotches; silvery below (Ref. 1998). Fins colorless (Ref. 27547). Breeding colors may be variable, depending on sex, population and stage of breeding cycle but color of females always less intense than those of males (Ref. 27547). Aggressive females become dark on the back and paler below, then sometimes become paler with more conspicuous saddle marks as actual breeding approaches (Ref. 30380). Aggressive males become totally black except for the colorless fins and the membranes on the pelvic spines, which are white. At breeding, the males become paler on the back and more intensely black on the belly, especially under the chin (Ref. 28993, 30380). Breeding males on the east coast of North America have been reported as reddish under the head and greenish on the belly (Ref. 27547). Caudal fin with 12 rays (Ref. 2196).
Circumarctic: Arctic and Atlantic drainages across Canada and Alaska, and as far south as New Jersey, USA; Pacific coast of Alaska; Great Lakes basin; also in Eurasia (Ref. 5723). Eurasia: coastal areas of northern Europe, from Netherlands to northern Russia, including southern Norway and Baltic basin. Widely distributed inland in eastern Scandinavia. Extends eastward to Siberia and Japan, but remains to be confirmed that East Asia populations are conspecific with European ones (Ref. 59043).
Found in shallow vegetated areas of lakes, ponds, and pools of sluggish streams; sometimes in open water over sand (Ref. 5723). Marine populations found near shore and move into fresh water to spawn (Ref. 5723). There appears to be seasonal movements inshore to shallow water in the spring for spawning, and, in the fall, offshore to deep water, or even to the less saline parts of the sea, by the young and adults that survive spawning (Ref. 27547). Nerito-pelagic (Ref. 58426). Feed on small invertebrates; also on aquatic insects and their eggs and larvae (Ref. 1998). Eggs are found in nests constructed from plant material (Ref. 41678). Males build, guard and aerate the nest where the eggs are deposited (Ref. 205). Females grow faster and live longer than do other males (Ref. 27547). Males seldom live beyond age three, due to heavy post-spawning mortality, but females may live to age five or more (Ref. 27547). When abundant, it is preyed upon by other fishes (Ref. 1998); also preyed by birds (Ref. 27547). May be used as human or dog food or as a source of oil (Ref. 27547).
Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr, 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p.
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 90363)
Threat to humans
Fisheries: subsistence fisheries; aquarium: commercial
Estimates of some properties based on empirical models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.5020 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 3.3 ±0.4 se; Based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
): Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (tm=1-2; tmax=5; Fec=350).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): Low to moderate vulnerability (27 of 100) .