Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Washington
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Hovel, R.A., D.A. Beauchamp, M.H. Sorel, and A.G. Hansen. 2015. Development of a bioenergetics model for the threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 144:1311-1321. DOI: 10.1080/00028487.2015.1079554


The Threespine Stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus is widely distributed across northern hemisphere ecosystems, has ecological influence as an abundant planktivore, and is commonly used as a model organism, but the species lacks a comprehensive model to describe bioenergetic performance in response to varying environmental or ecological conditions. This study parameterized a bioenergetics model for the Threespine Stickleback using laboratory measurements to determine mass- and temperature-dependent functions for maximum consumption and routine respiration costs. Maximum consumption experiments were conducted across a range of temperatures from 7.5C to 23.0C and a range of fish weights from 0.5 to 4.5 g. Respiration experiments were conducted across a range of temperatures from 8C to 28C. Model sensitivity was consistent with other comparable models in that the mass-dependent parameters for maximum consumption were the most sensitive. Growth estimates based on the Threespine Stickleback bioenergetics model suggested that 22C is the optimal temperature for growth when food is not limiting. The bioenergetics model performed well when used to predict independent, paired measures of consumption and growth observed from a separate wild population of Threespine Sticklebacks. Predicted values for consumption and growth (expressed as percent body weight per day) only deviated from observed values by 2.0%. Our model should provide insight into the physiological performance of this species across a range of environmental conditions and be useful for quantifying the trophic impact of this species in food webs containing other ecologically or economically important species.