Male Stickleback Fish: Fish Mating Behavior
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Male Stickleback Fish: Fish Mating Behavior

It can be argued that male stickleback fish do most of the work of helping the species continue. These small creatures can in no way be described as absentee fathers. In fact, it is the females who seem to be able to continue with life as it was before, after their eggs have been fertilized. The males take the lead from courtship.

Male Stickleback Fish: Importance of Coloration in Mate Selection

Male stickleback fish have a bright red color at the start of the breeding season. This shade helps to attract females and is due to carotenoids that are present in the bodies of these fish. Females use the intensity of the coloring to determine how healthy a male fish is.

Those that are more brightly colored are less likely to be infested by parasites. This means that they will probably live longer and are more likely to be around to help with taking care of their young. Researchers have shown that the females will even pick a male with artificial coloring over one that does not have much color.

It is very important for females to pick a male that will live for a long time, since most of the responsibility for protecting the young will lie with them. Males court females with distended abdomens and if they are successful with one of them, they lead them back to their nest. There, spawning and fertilization of the eggs takes place. Males collect eggs for several days and then they switch to the role of father.

Male Stickleback Fish: Choosing A Female to Mate With

Male stickleback fish use visual clues to help them determine which female fish would be a good mate. Although male fish will be stimulated to begin courtship activity by the sight of a suitable female, they do not simply go with the first one they see. If they have a selection of females to choose from, they will opt for the one that has the most distended abdomen. The male fish interpret the level of fullness in the abdomen as a sign of the female’s readiness for spawning.

Male Stickleback Fish: The Importance of Nest Building

In three spined sticklebacks, the males are responsible for building the nests. These structures are not only functional. They show some aspects of the male’s character and physiology. For example, nests that were untidy were an indication of a lack in the physiology of the fish.

Sticklebacks use a protein that their bodies produce to hold their nests together. If they are not producing enough of this protein, they will not have enough glue for building the nest and it will look untidy. This substance is secreted by their kidneys. Smaller kidneys would secrete less of the protein. 

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