Species Profile

Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback

Scientific Name: Gasterosteus aculeatus
Other/Previous Names: Misty Lake Lotic Stickleback ,Gasterosteus sp.
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2006
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A3e
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This stream-dwelling fish is part of an endemic, highly divergent species pair restricted to a single stream-lake complex on Vancouver Island with an extremely small area of occurrence. This species pair could quickly become extinct due the introduction of non-native aquatic species or perturbations to the habitat. Proximity of this complex to a major highway and public access makes an introduction likely. Logging activities in the watershed, as well as highway use and related maintenance, could impact habitat quality to some degree.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in November 2006.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2010-02-23

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Description

Misty Lake Threespine Sticklebacks are small freshwater fish, with three long back-spines. There are two species of Misty Lake Threespine Sticklebacks, which are referred to as a species pair. They are the Misty Lake Lentic Threespine Stickleback and the Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback. Both species descended from the marine Threespine Stickleback and evolved into separate species by living in different habitats. The species pair is parapatric, meaning that the species live next to each other with ranges that partially overlap. Habitat or environmental changes can disrupt mating barriers of a species pair and lead to the collapse of the pair into a hybrid swarm. Misty Lake Threespine Sticklebacks are a small fish, typically around 40 to 65 millimeters long. Compared to the lentic species, the Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback has a deeper and shorter body, smaller tail fin, fewer gill rakers, and larger pelvic girdles. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Distribution and Population

Misty Lake Threespine Sticklebacks are found only in the Misty Lake watershed on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback lives in the inlet stream and the swampy transition zone between the lake and the inlet stream. Population sizes are unclear for Misty Lake Threespine Sticklebacks. The inlet population is thought to be in the low thousands. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Habitat

Misty Lake is a small and shallow coastal lake, about 12 kilometers upstream of the ocean. The Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback lives in the inlet stream and the swampy zone between the lake and the inlet stream. The upper limit of its distribution in the inlet stream is unclear. Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Sticklebacks prefer low flow areas of the stream, such as pools and sloughs. They are thought to spawn in calm areas of the inlet stream and the inlet swamp, and build nests out of gravel. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Biology

Misty Lake Threespine Sticklebacks reproduce in April to July. Eggs hatch seven to ten days after being laid. Male sticklebacks build nests and fan the nest to oxygenate the eggs. They continue to defend and care for the young fish until they are capable of moving into cover to feed. The species matures between one and two years old and its lifespan is probably three years. Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback feed on invertebrates found on the bottom of the stream. Likely predators of Misty Lake Sticklebacks include other fish, mammals and birds. Predators could include Coastal Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii), Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and American Mink (Mustela vison). (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Threats

The Misty Lake Lentic and Lotic Threespine Sticklebacks exist in only one place in the world. Also, habitat or environmental changes can disrupt mating barriers of a species pair and lead to the collapse of the pair into a hybrid swarm. This makes these species vulnerable to a variety of localized threats. One of the greatest threats to these species is from aquatic invasive species. Once established in the Misty Lake system, invasive species could threaten the species pair through predation, competition, or by altering their habitat. The risk of invasive species entering the system is high because Misty Lake is easy to access by road. Other threats to the species include water pollution from runoff and land use, non-conforming recreational use of Misty Lake Ecological Reserve, riparian vegetation removal, water extraction, climate change, and excessive removal of individuals. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Team

Pacific Region Species at Risk Program - Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback

  • DFO Pacific Region - MPO région du Pacifique - Chair/Contact - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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Recovery Progress and Activities

The Misty Lake Ecological Reserve was created in 1996. The reserve increased in size in 2001. The lake, land surrounding the lake, and sections of inlet and outlet streams are protected within the reserve. The reserve limits consumptive uses, including hunting, fishing, and camping. The reserve helps protect the Misty Lake Threespine Sticklebacks from capture and habitat degradation. Studies on Misty Lake Threespine Stickleback have been ongoing. A Recovery Strategy for the Misty Lake Sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in Canada was proposed in 2016. The strategy outlines goals to maintain the species populations, current distribution, and habitat. It also identifies threats to the two species, provides strategies to address threats, and identifies critical habitat. (Updated 2017/07/19)

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

17 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Misty Lake sticklebacks (Gasterosteus sp.) (Misty Lake lentic stickleback and Misty Lake lotic stickleback) in Canada (2007-08-30)

    The Misty Lake sticklebacks, a highly divergent parapatric lake-stream pair of threespine stickleback, are found in a single small lake on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC). Similar parapatric lake-stream pairs have also been well documented in two other systems in BC, Mayer and Drizzle lakes on Graham Island (Queen Charlotte Islands). These pairs live in contact (parapatry) without a significant amount of overlap or interbreeding. Differences in body shape are believed to be adaptations to the different feeding strategies used by each member of the species pair. Genetic evidence suggests that each of the three highly divergent lake-stream pairs has evolved separately through parallel evolution. Of the lake-stream pairs examined to date, the Misty Lake inlet stream and lake populations appear to be the most genetically and ecologically differentiated from one another. The Misty Lake outlet stream population is intermediate in morphology between the inlet and lake populations and is considered part of the lake-stream complex.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Misty Lake Lotic Stickleback (2007-12-04)

    This stream-dwelling fish is part of an endemic, highly divergent species pair restricted to a single stream-lake complex on Vancouver Island with an extremely small area of occurrence. This species pair could quickly become extinct due the introduction of non-native aquatic species or perturbations to the habitat. Proximity of this complex to a major highway and public access makes an introduction likely. Logging activities in the watershed, as well as highway use and related maintenance, could impact habitat quality to some degree.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Misty Lake Sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in Canada (2018-04-17)

    Descended from the marine Threespine Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), parapatric (meaning species living adjacent to each other) lake-stream stickleback species are of considerable scientific interest and value due to their recent and unique evolutionary history. Although they live in contiguous geographic ranges, they interbreed relatively little in the overlapping habitat, and are genetically, ecologically and morphologically distinct. Parapatric lake-stream sticklebacks are relatively rare and, while other lake-stream pairs have been documented, each are independently derived.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Misty Lake Sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in Canada (2020-02-13)

    The Misty Lake Lentic Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and the Misty Lake Lotic Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) (Misty Lake Sticklebacks) were listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2010. This Action Plan is part of a series of documents regarding the Misty Lake Sticklebacks, including the COSEWIC Status Report (COSEWIC 2006), the recovery potential assessment (DFO 2010), the critical habitat identification report (Hatfield 2009), and the Recovery Strategy (DFO 2018), that should be taken into consideration together.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (Volume 143, Number 13, 2009) (2009-07-08)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments conducted pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 146, number 14, 2012) (2012-07-04)

    The purpose of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act is to add 18 species to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), and to reclassify 7 listed species, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of SARA. This amendment is made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act [fish] (2010-03-17)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27(1) and (1.1) of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007-08-30)

    2007 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 167), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-05-11)

    Authorized representatives of McGill University will carry out tag-recapture sampling and specimen collection for artificial crossing/genetic analysis of Misty Lake sticklebacks in order to: determine genetic distinction of stickleback traits; indicate presence of parasites; and estimate natural selection on morphological traits. The ultimate goal of the activities is to aid in the recovery of the Misty Lake stickleback by improving monitoring, and informing the topic of genetically distinctive traits.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 168), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-06-01)

    Authorized representatives of Harvard University will carry out environmental monitoring, trapping, and laboratory testing for Misty Lake stickleback, in order to quantify the extent of parallel and non-parallel divergence in phenotype. Euthanasia of limited numbers of sticklebacks is required for analysis, and to reduce the spread of pathogens potentially acquired in a laboratory setting. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in recovery of the Misty Lake stickleback by observing how morphological divergence affects functional and performance differences between the two populations.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 214), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2011-06-01)

    Authorized representatives of Louis Calder Center - Biological Field Station will carry out an assessment of the repeatability of phenotypic evolution by quantifying the extent of parallel and non-parallel divergence in phenotype at three levels: morphology, function, and performance in order to provide insight into the evolutionary history of the Misty Lake/Stream system. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of this species by understanding the differences between function and performance between the lentic and lotic Misty Lake Stickleback populations.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 243), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2012-05-07)

    Authorized representatives of McGill University will carry out the collection and experimentation of Misty Lake Sticklebacks in order to test various hypotheses on mechanisms that drive speciation and maintain reproductive isolation. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of this species by collecting genetic data on how and why the lake and stream stickleback do and do not differ from each other.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 283), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2013-05-01)

    Authorized representatives of McGill University will carry out a reproductive timing study in order to determine if differences in reproductive timing are genetically determined for Misty Lake Stickleback pairs. These data will complement similar data taken from other stickleback lake-stream systems, to see to what degree the difference in reproductive timing between habitats exists in parallel across watersheds, offering further insight into the speciation of lake versus stream systems. The goal of this research is to understand how and why the lake and stream stickleback in this system do and do not differ from each other. Their distinctiveness is the basis for their SARA listing.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 320), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2014-05-05)

    Authorized representatives of McGill University will catch, mark-recapture, create, and study artificial crosses of Misty Lake Stickleback Pairs in order to collect data on the species. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of the species by collecting information on the genetic divergent adaption, monitoring long-term changes in phenotypes, and estimating population sizes in geographic distributions.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 368), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2015-05-01)

    Authorized representatives of McGill University will carry out mark-recapture techniques and sampling of Misty Lake threespine sticklebacks (lotic and lentic species) in order to create artificial crosses, monitor long-term changes in phenotypes and estimate population sizes and geographic distributions. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of this species by assessing the genetic contribution to the divergent adaption seen in nature, monitor long-term changes in phenotypes, and study selection against hybrids.

Critical Habitat Orders

  • Critical Habitat of the Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) Order (2018-10-31)

    The Misty Lake Lentic Threespine Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and the Misty Lake Lotic Threespine Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) [hereafter referred to as the Misty Lake Sticklebacks] are freshwater fishes that are restricted to a single lake-stream complex on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. In November 2006, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed the status of the Misty Lake Sticklebacks and classified the species as endangered. In April 2012, the Misty Lake Sticklebacks were listed as endangered in Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Recovery Document Posting Plan - Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Fiscal Year 2016-2017 (2018-09-28)

    Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the competent Minister(s) must prepare a recovery strategy within one year of listing a species on Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered and within two years of listing a species as extirpated or threatened. A management plan must be prepared within three years for a species listed as special concern. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is accountable for 111 of the 518 species listed under SARA. As of February 2016, proposed recovery strategies, management plans and action plans for 57 of those species have not yet been posted to the Species at Risk Public Registry. An additional 23 aquatic species have proposed management or action plans coming due in the future. The following outlines the Department’s plan for posting proposed documents for 64 species on the Species at Risk Public Registry. The Department has a plan to post recovery strategies for 9 species, management plans for 13 species, and action plans for 42 species over the next year. Original publication of the Recovery Document Posting Plan: 2016-05-02
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