Pungitius pungitius
Newfoundland Stickleback

Photograph by Konrad Schmidt

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Pungitius, from the Latin, "pricking"
  • pungitius, ditto
  • Common Name from
  • Other common names include: Nine Spine Stickleback, Småspigg (Swe)


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata,
    • Subphylum Vertebrata,
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
          • Family Gasterosteidae, the sticklebacks
            • Genus Pungitius, the ninespine sticklebacks
  • Pungitius occidentalis (Cuvier, 1829)


  • An aggressive little fish of northern waters.
  • Length less than 3"
  • Weight
  • Coloration
    • green or grey above, with irregular blotches
    • silvery below
    • breeding males can be redish or blackish
  • Body
    • nine separate dorsal spines
    • anal fin with a single spine
    • pelvic fin with single spine
  • Head
    • large, with large eyes
  • Lifespan


  • Unmistakable as a stickleback.
  • Distinguished from the other northern stickleback, the Brook Stickleback (Culaea inconstans), by having 9 (rather than 5) stickles on its back.


  • Circumboreal; Asia, northern Europe, and North America.
  • Alaska through Canada, to the Great Lakes and east to New Jersey.
  • Locally common in northern Minnesota in the Rainy River drainage and tributaries to North Shore streams. This includes most of the BWCA.


  • Freshwater and coastal areas of northern seas.


  • In Canada, where abundant, an important forage fish for Brook Trout, Lake Trout, and Walleye.




  • Spawns in summer in fresh water.
  • Male builds a rounded nest from organic debris, filamentous algae, and other materials.
  • Male aggressively seeks out a female and lures her to the nest. The female enters the nest opening and deposits 20-30 eggs. Immediately after leaving the nest the female is chased away by the male. The male then enters the nest and fertilizes the eggs.
  • Eggs are incubated and guarded by the male.



Boreal border

Last updated on 17 October 1999