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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sticklebacks at 2000 feet

My underwater photography attempt at capturing the sticklebacks

On our recent camping trip in the alpine I was shocked to find sticklebacks in the lake.  The lake is at almost 2000 feet elevation and the outlet stream descends very steeply over waterfalls - 1500 feet in less than a half mile.  How did those guys get in the lake?  And how have they managed to survive in a lake that probably freezes solid in the winter and does not thaw out until July?

I did some research and I gather sticklebacks are REALLY, REALLY adaptive.  They will change their diet to fit the environment.  They are known as survivors.

Also what is really cool is that they can decide if they want to be male or female and can possibly self-fertilize their own eggs!  I was a little confused by the details, but if you want a good read download this book about fisheries research on the Karluk River and check out chapter 8 on stickleback research in particular (click here for link) (it's free from NOAA). A comparison of the dead stickleback I found at the lake and the pictures in book indicate that it is a Three Spined Stickleback.

So I'm thinking maybe it just took one stickleback full of eggs getting dropped by an arctic tern (or some other bird) to populate the whole lake. Arctic terns are nesting on the lake.  Or maybe just eggs on bird feet?  Pretty cool anyhow.  Patrick

A close-up of a dead one I found on the lake shore

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