1 Sticklebacks in Tanks Learning with Sticklebacks
2 STICKLEBACKS IN TANKS Debbie Whittaker 1, Jerome Masters 2, Iain Barber 3 and Aimee Clorley 2 1: Gledhow Primary School, Lidgett Lane, Leeds, LS8 1PL 2: Environment Agency, Phoenix House, Global Avenue, Leeds, LS11 8PG 3: University of Leicester, Department of Biology, Leicester, LE1 7RH This project pack is copyright of the Environment Agency and the University of Leicester. Other organisations have allowed us to reproduce some of their material and have been duly credited within. Copying of parts of the project pack is authorised for use in classrooms during Sticklebacks in Tanks projects. Other than for this use, the pack may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the written consent of the Environment Agency and the University of Leicester. We are grateful to the Environment Agency, The Institute of Fisheries Management and Hydrosphere UK Ltd for funding the development of this pack. Any field visits must be carried out in accordance with LEA / school guidelines
3 1.0 Sticklebacks in Schools Sticklebacks are well suited to engage children s interest, due to their colourful appearance and distinctive behaviours. They are also relatively easy to catch and care for. This pack provides some background information about sticklebacks, and ideas and templates for games and activities. Information on capture and care of sticklebacks in provided in a separate pack. We have found that children are very enthusiastic about having fish in their classroom, and this can help when teaching the National Curriculum, and when developing cross-curricular activities. For example, relevant topics in Key Stage One include: Science o How to treat animals with care and sensitivity. o That humans and other animals can produce offspring and that these offspring grow into adults. o Finding out about the different kinds of plants and animals in the local environment. Geography o Expressing their own views about environments. o Recognising how the environment may be improved and sustained. Citizenship o Realising that other living things have needs and that they have responsibilities to meet them. o Discussing what improves and harms their local, natural and built environments. Sticklebacks have also prompted discussion across generations, with parents and grandparents taking an interest and describing their own childhood adventures fishing for tiddlers.
4 2.0 Stickleback Biology There are three species of stickleback living in the UK. The Sticklebacks in Tanks project is designed to be run with three-spined sticklebacks. 2.1 Three-spined sticklebacks Female (left) and male (right) (from Small fish (up to 8cm long) commonly found in ditches, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. Some also live in shallow bays and estuaries. Scientific name is Gasterosteus aculeatus Named after the three spines on the back (the first two are longest and most easily seen). The pelvic fins also each have a spine. The spines can be locked pointing out from the fish. Spines catch in the throats of predators, making them harder to eat. Nocturnal predators feeding on worms, insect larvae, small snails, crustaceans, small fish and fish eggs. Very tolerant of poor water quality. In polluted waters, sticklebacks are often the only fish that can be found. Male three-spined sticklebacks build nests on sand/gravel and then guard the nests and eggs. Most UK freshwater fish do not guard eggs in this way. Sticklebacks spend a lot of energy looking after a small number of large eggs (50 to 300). Other fish, like roach, will put their energy into laying a large number of eggs (25,000 to 1,000,000) but then don t spend any time looking after them.
5 2.2 Nine-spined sticklebacks Usually they have nine spines on the middle of the back, although between seven to twelve have been counted. Scientific name is Pungitius pungitius. Usually olive green to black on the back and sides and silvery underneath. During breeding season they appear brighter in colour with a blue tint to the pelvic fin area. Prefers areas of still water where weed growth is dense. Males build nests in dense weeds, usually inches above the bottom. 2.3 Fifteen-spined sticklebacks A wholly marine species. Smaller fish are often found in rock pools on the middle to lower shore. Larger fish live in deeper water, returning to the shore to breed. Scientific name is Spinachia spinachia. Generally has between fourteen and sixteen spines along the back. Elongated body, with a long tubular head.
6 3.0 Three-spined Stickleback Life Cycle The breeding season for sticklebacks is late spring / early summer. Sticklebacks have a lifespan of about one year. During the breeding season, the male s belly and throat turn red and his eyes turn blue. The male makes a nest by gluing plant fibres together using a secretion from the kidneys (called spiggin ). Each nest has a tunnel large enough for the female to swim through and lay eggs in. Stickleback nests are built by the males and vary in shape.
7 A female comes to the males nest, her belly swollen with eggs. The male displays a zig-zag courtship dance o Swimming in a rapid, jerky fashion, towards the female and then back to his nest. o In between zig-zags he will fan the nest with his fins, to show the female what a good parent he will be. o He may also show the female the entrance hole of his nest by pointing at it with his snout. The female squeezes through the tunnel, lays her eggs (about 100 eggs), leaves the nest and swims away. The male swims through the nest and fertilises the eggs with his sperm. The male stickleback looks after the eggs. After five days, black eyes and tails are visible in the eggs. Stickleback eggs ( The young fish (fry) hatch after nine days. The fry shelter in vegetation. The male still looks after as many young as he can. Stickleback fry in vegetation ( After four weeks the male s bright colours have faded and he leaves the young fish to look after themselves.
8 4.0 Pollution The Environment Agency responds to reports of pollution. If you see anything that you think is a pollution incident please call our Incident Hotline (Freephone, 24 hour service) 4.1 Urban Rivers Due to historic levels of pollution, urban rivers in the UK are widely thought of as lifeless and dirty. Buildings often face away rivers the river having historically been used for the disposal of waste. Following improvements to water treatment facilities and the regulation of industry, water quality has improved in many UK rivers. Environmental facts and figures for England and Wales are available on the Environment Agency website. As a result of improved water quality and fish restocking programmes many urban rivers now support thriving fish populations. Fish support populations of predators such as herons, saw-bill ducks, kingfishers and otters (even in cities like Sheffield and Leeds). Urban rivers are increasingly being used for recreational activities, such as angling, rowing and canoeing. 4.2 Fish and Pollution Different species of fish have different tolerances to pollution. Environment Agency data from fish surveys in the River Don, South Yorkshire, show changes in the fish population as the river became cleaner over time (below). Sticklebacks are very tolerant and, historically, in very polluted waters were often the only species of fish found. As polluted rivers begin to become cleaner, they become suitable for coarse fish species (minnow, stone loach, gudgeon, roach, dace, perch). As waters become even cleaner, trout started to occur. This species needs cleaner water and higher dissolved oxygen levels than coarse fish. When the river became really clean, bullhead started to be found. This small fish species is very intolerant of pollution.
9 Species spined stickleback minnow , ,000-9, stone loach gudgeon roach 1 6 dace 4 perch 1 brown trout bullhead Fish survey data 1 from the River Don, near Oughtibridge (SK ) Two species of coarse fish, roach (left) and dace (right) Brown trout (left) and bullhead (right) 1 When large numbers of small fish (three-spined stickleback, minnows, stone loach) were caught an abundance estimate was used ( , 1,000-9,999, 10,000 +), to allow the fish to be returned to the river more quickly than would have been the case had they been counted exactly.
10 ACTIVITIES This section includes a few ideas for activities centred around sticklebacks, and a few templates to help get you started.
11 Question and Answer Fishing Game. Write questions on cut-out fish and place in a box (or fish tank). Write answers on similar cut-out fish and place in another box (or tank). Attach magnets to the fish, use bamboo canes and magnets to make fishing rods. One child catches a question fish and reads the question to the class. The class then answer the question and another child catches the appropriate answer fish to see if they are right. Using coloured fish makes the game easier - corresponding question and answer fish being the same colour. This works well as a plenary activity. Pond Diorama You will need: Shoe box, paper, card, crayons, tape, thread, scissors Use the shoe box as the stage for a pond scene Place the box on its side Decorate the inside of the box to look like it is underwater. Draw the animals and plants you want to be in the scene on card (you can use the templates in this pack) Cut them out and hang them in the box. Pond Game An active game that looks at how different pond animals move. Equipment: Safe open space Safety rules: No pushing, No Skidding Children are given four animals to mimic. o Water Boatman Rowing action o Whirligig beetle spinning around o Frog Jump from a crouch o Fish Hand on top of the head (fin) and fish mouth movements Point out North, East, South and West Shout an animal and a direction. They should then go where you have said whilst doing the correct animal action Anyone doing the wrong action and/or the last to arrive are out.
12 Guess Who? Pictures included in this guide can be used to create the cards for this game. This is a two-player game based on Guess Who and involves a card being selected at random by each player from a separate pile of cards (containing the same number of images). The object of the game is to be the first to determine which card one's opponent has selected. This is done by asking various yes or no questions to eliminate candidates, such as "Does it have legs?" This game can be used to introduce the concept of keys (for example. before a pond dipping session). Plenary Activity - Where do fish live? Understanding of how rivers change can be checked by giving children information about a fish species, and then asking them to place it in the correct habitat. Rivers change as they flow from upstream to downstream areas and different fish are adapted to live in the different habitats created. Four species of fish (roach, brown trout, grayling, common bream) illustrate the different habitats really well. Near the source, rivers are fast flowing and shallow, with a stony river bed and lots of oxygen dissolved in the water. There are few nutrients, so there is less food available than further downstream. In lowland rivers, the flow is slower, the channel deeper and the river bed is more silty. There are more nutrients than upstream, but lower dissolved oxygen levels. Upstream Downstream Oxygen Lots Not so much Flow Fast slow River Bed Stony Muddy Food Not much Lots
13 Q) Roach live in slow-flowing or still muddy water. They feed on small animals and plants. They lay eggs on plants and tree roots. Where would you find roach? A) Downstream Q) Brown trout live in clean, fast-flowing water. They feed on small animals and other fish. They make nests in gravel. Where would you find trout? A) Upstream Q) Grayling feed on small animals. They bury their eggs in gravel. They need high oxygen levels to survive and die in polluted water. Where would you find grayling? A) Upstream Q) Bream live in still and slow-flowing water. They feed on small animals. They lay their eggs on plants or stones. Where would you find bream? A) Downstream
16 Pond dipping Ponds are fascinating habitats and contain a large number of different plants and animals. Pond dipping is a highly enjoyable and practical way of introducing children to the wide variety of life through hands on scientific enquiry. Health and Safety ALL OFF-SITE VISITS MUST BE CARRIED OUT IN ACCORDANCE WITH LEA / SCHOOL GUIDELINES. A detailed risk assessment will be necessary o A ratio of 1 adult to every 4 children is a general guide o Careful preparation will ensure a safe and enjoyable activity Remember that, when working outside conditions can change. A site assessed as low risk one day might be high risk at another time (for example, a stream before and after heavy rainfall). The Rivercall service ( ) can provide information on river levels Ensure that the pond/stream is not too deep and that the rims are solid and will support the children without any risk of giving way o The two metre rule is a good guide: keep two metres away from the edge unless sampling Make sure the children are fully aware of the fact that there are risks and to be extra careful and sensible It is a good time to reiterate and reinforce a code of behaviour appropriate for field visits i.e. to be quiet and calm and move slowly so as not to disturb anything else in the environment Leptospirosis (Weil s Disease) is caught through contact with urine from infected animals (mainly rodents, cattle and pigs) in water or soil. The bacteria enter the body through abrasions or cuts in the skin and through the lining of the nose, mouth and eyes. Early symptoms include flu-like symptoms, vomiting, high temperature, headache and muscle pains. The treatment is antibiotics. Protect yourself: Cover all cuts and abrasions with a waterproof dressing. Avoid rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth during work. Wash hands thoroughly before eating or drinking. Avoid immersion in potentially infected water.
17 Equipment Long handled net Short handled net White containers/trays (these make it easy to identify the catch) and with secure lids if the catch is to be taken back into the classroom. White plastic spoons Specimen jars Magnifiers Identification guides Plastic sheets to kneel on Pencils and notebooks Old clothes and Wellington boots! How to pond dip 1. Spread out the plastic sheet on the edge of the pond 2. Have the containers ready with some clear pond water already in 3. Swish your net slowly through the weeds or along the bottom of the pond (try not to pick up too much mud or damage any plants.) 4. Take the net out and turn it inside out into the tub Don t try to pick anything out, you may squash them 5. Let the water settle and look at what you have caught 6. Use a spoon to gently remove anything you want to observe more closely or transfer to another container Identification The enclosed Identification sheet will help the children to identify the creatures. Keys will be a useful resource for these identification activities and can easily be found on the internet (see the resources page) If you have access to microscopes, these can be both exciting and very useful to look at the pond water to see what else may be in it After pond dipping Small pond creatures easily become stressed, make sure they have pondweed to hide amongst or cling to Don t leave the containers in full sun; water heats up quickly and this can kill the organisms Return the catch to the exact same spot from where it came so the ecology of the habitat is not disturbed. Don t keep them too long - return them as soon as you can Put them back carefully, pouring as close to the surface as possible. Wash all equipment thoroughly Wash your hands
18 Pond Life Name: Date: Name: What did you see? Where they live. Pond Skater Surface Water Boatman Water Water Beetle Water Water Flea Water Frogs & Tadpoles Water & Plants & Mud Pond Snail Plants Freshwater shrimp Plants & Mud Water Louse Mud Bloodworm Mud Worksheet courtesy of Meanwood Valley Urban Farm (
20 Animal ID Sheet OSTRACOD DAPHNIA / WATER FLES RAT TAILED MAGGOT BLOODWORM (FLY LARVA) INSECT LARVA PHANTOM MIDGE # # WORM FLATWORM LEECH WATER MITE WATER LOUSE FRESHWATER SHRIMP # POND SKATER WATER STICK INSECT BEETLE LARVA WATER BEETLE WATER BOATMAN LESSER WATER BOATMAN # # #
21 WATER SCORPION DRAGONFLY LARVA DAMSELFLY LARVA MAYFLY LARVA STONEFLY LARVA CADDIS FLY LARVA RAMS HORN SNAIL POND SNAIL PEA-SHELL COCKLE SWAN MUSSEL FROGS & TADPOLES STICKLEBACK # Picture courtesy of Canterbury Environmental Education Centre ( # Picture courtesy of Meanwood Valley Urban Farm (
22 Three-spined stickleback templates: Useful for artwork and decoration around aquariums.
25 Nine-spined stickleback templates: Useful for artwork and decoration around aquariums.
26 Sticklebacks The Board Game Summary A game for up to six players. Each player controls a male stickleback. Male fish move around the board, landing on event squares to find food and a mate whilst trying not to get eaten. The game can be adapted for different ability levels, with lower and higher ability versions of the rules and event cards. You will need: Game board A counter for each player Reedbed event cards Open water event cards Dice Rough paper Pen/pencil How to play Each player places their counter on a nest square. Each player then rolls a die and the player with the highest score moves first. Players take it in turns to roll a die and move the corresponding number of spaces around the board. The outer circle of the board represents the reedbed around the edge of a pond, the inner spaces represent the middle of a pond (open water). The aim of the game is for a player s male to move around the pond collecting enough energy points to find and keep a mate and breed successfully whilst avoiding being eaten by predators. Each player s male stickleback begins the game with 3 energy points. Players will gain and lose energy points throughout the game and so will need to keep track of their current score on a piece of paper. If a male drops to 0 energy points, the fish has died and is out of the game. The maximum number of energy points you can have is 12. If you want to keep players involved in the game, they can start again if their male dies. It might be a good idea to say that any player that starts again can t win, to avoid arguments later!
27 Event cards There are a number of event squares across the board. When a player lands on one of these, they must take an event card. The event cards for the reedbed are different to those for the open water. The event card will either be: A food item (the male will gain energy points, up to a maximum of 12) A female stickleback (the player may be able to keep her as a mate) A predator (the male might lose energy points, or even die) A threat (the male will hide and miss a turn) If a player has 12 energy points, but draws a food item event card, their total energy points stays at 12. Event cards are returned to the bottom of the pile (except for female sticklebacks kept as mates). Female sticklebacks A male can keep a female if he has 9 or more energy points when he picks up the female stickleback event card. If a player picks a female stickleback event card, but their male has fewer than 9 energy points, the card must be returned to the pile. If a player has a female stickleback card, but their males energy points level drops below 9, they must return their female stickleback card to the bottom of the pile of event cards. It is not possible for one player to have more than one female stickleback card at any one time. If they already have a female, but pick another female stickleback event card, they must return this card to the bottom of the pile. Breeding successfully A player must have a female stickleback card, and their male must have 12 energy points or more in order to breed successfully. The male must also make their way back to their own nest. When a player returns to their nest with a female, they do not have to roll an exact number to enter the nest and finish the game (e.g. a player who s male is two spaces away from their nest rolls a 5, this allows his male to get home that turn and win the game).
28 Escaping from predators (can be omitted for simpler game) Some event cards will describe an encounter with a predator. The card might say You will be eaten unless you escape. To try to escape, the player rolls two dice (or one die twice, adding the numbers together). If the sum of the two die rolls is less than their current number of energy points, then they have successfully escaped (note: a male with 12 energy points can still fail to escape, as rolling two sixes will be equal to his energy points value, not less than it). Even if they escape, the male stickleback will not be unharmed. The player must subtract the sum of their two die rolls from their current number of energy points. This represents energy spent during the struggle to escape and, possibly, wounds inflicted by the predator. If a player has a female stickleback card, but their male drops to below 9 points after escaping from a predator, then the player must return the female card to bottom of the pile of event cards. Stealing a mate (can be omitted for simpler game) If one player has a female stickleback card and finishes a turn in the same square as another player s male, then they might get their female stolen from them. The player with the female will have to give their card to the other player if their opponent s male has more energy points. If both males have the same number of energy points, then each player rolls a die. The player with the highest roll gets the female. Roll again in the event of a tie. It is not possible for one player to have more than one female stickleback card at any one time. Winning the game The first player to find and keep a female, gain 12 energy points and return to their nest wins the game. This might not always happen in every game, if time is limited, in which case the winner is the player who has a female stickleback card. If more than one player has a female stickleback card at the end of the game, the winner is the player with a female and more energy points than the other players with females. If no players have a female stickleback card, the winner is the player with the most energy points. Note that if one player has, say, 15 energy points but no female, whilst another has, say, 10 points and a female stickleback card, the winner is the player with the female, even though they have fewer energy points.
29 Learning points This game illustrates, in a simple way, some aspects of stickleback behaviour and ecology. Males need enough energy (through food) to be able to attract a mate, then rear their young. Meeting a predator doesn t always mean you ll get eaten, but it is costly to have to escape and injury is a possibility. The fitter you are illustrated in this game by energy points, the more chance you have of escaping from predators. Predators tend to target weaker individuals. Females choose their mates, they don t just pair at random. This is illustrated in the game by males being able to steal another player s female. Different habitats have different risks and rewards, also, not all food has the same value. All of the food items in the open water part of the pond are worth more than those in the reedbed. But, there is more chance of meeting a dangerous predator in the open water.
30 Resources Many resources are available. This is just a selection. The omission of any company or product from this list does not mean that it is not satisfactory. Books Cleave. A. (1992). Projects with Freshwater Life. The Crowood Press Ltd. Wiltshire. Parker. P. (1988). The Life Cycle of a Stickleback. Wayland (Publishers) Ltd. England. Watts. B. (1988). Sticklebacks. A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd. London. Websites There are some excellent websites that have all manner of detailed activities, games and downloadable worksheets. Information on the Environment Agency and local environmental information. Copyright-free videos, images and fact-files illustrating the world's species This has an excellent bugdial that the children can use to identify their catch and some excellent games for the children to play based on the themes of adaptation, food chains and webs and life cycles. This features a brilliant virtual pond dip as well as detailed identification keys. There is a downloadable pond dipping passport. e/hamshall/nindex.htm Excellent virtual pond, food webs and chains for Key Stage One. e/hamshall/index.htm Excellent virtual pond, food webs and chains for Key Stage Three. This is also packed full of great activities.