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Field Observations of Intraspecific and Interspecific Aggression Among Sticklebacks (Gasterosteidae)

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The aggressive behaviour and distribution of nests of three species of sticklebacks breeding sympatrically in tide pools near Isle Verte, Quebec, were examined. The larger more aggressive G. aculeatus sometimes prevent the smaller G. wheatlandi from establishing territories or displace those that do establish territories. The third species P. pungitius, intermediate in size, nests largely in vegetation and thereby avoids intense interactions with the other two species. G. aculeatus and G. wkeatlandi nest in open areas, the nests of the latter species being more clumped and closer to the pool banks than the former. In an experiment to test the aggressive response by resident territorial males to conspecific and heterospecific intruders, it was found that G. aculeatus was less tolerant towards conspecifics than towards Apeltes quadracus. This species does not occur in the tide pools at Isle Verte but is sympatric with G. aculeatus in a nearby tidal river. Aggression by G. wheatlandi towards G. aculeatus is higher than towards the other species. These differences in aggressive behaviour and spatial distribution are interpreted in the context of interspecific competition for nest sites, a limiting resource.

Affiliations: 1: Département de biologie, Université Laval, Ste-Foy, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada


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