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A LONG-TERM STUDY OF A SHORT-LIVED FISH: THE DEMOGRAPHY OF GASTEROSTEUS ACULEATUS

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(1) We present the results of the first long-term investigation on the demography of a population of three-spined sticklebacks. This study describes the changes in the abundance of a population from a backwater of the Afon Rheidol in mid-Wales, based on mark-recapture data collected in October of each year from 1972 until 1998.

(2) The population showed quasi-cyclical changes in abundance around a trend line with a period of approximately 6 years. Over the duration of the study there was a tendency for the population to decline. During the unusually dry summers of 1976, 1983, 1984 and 1989 the population was either at a minimum size or was below the estimated trend line. Estimates of stickleback densities varied between 7-28 m-2.

(3) Analysis of length-frequency data showed there were two cohorts present. These were assumed to represent two age classes, 0+ and 1+ , with the population consisting largely of the 0+ class. Thus the population was essentially annual.

(4) There was evidence of density-dependent mortality and growth of 0+ sticklebacks during and shortly after the spawning period.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Dyfed SY23 3DA, Wales, UK.; 2: School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London, London E1 4NS, UK.

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