Morphological asymmetry of insular freshwater populations of threespine stickleback

Leah A. Kenney, Frank A. von Hippel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Fluctuating asymmetry (FA), random deviations from perfect symmetry in a bilateral organism, has been widely used as a proxy for developmental instability in stressed populations. In order to test the utility of FA of resident freshwater threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a biomonitoring tool for contaminated sites, we compared levels of asymmetry of seven morphological traits of threespine stickleback collected from lakes at three islands with a history of military contamination and three islands with no military history, in the Aleutian Archipelago, Alaska. Traits examined include eye diameter, operculum width, pectoral fin ray number, pectoral fin width, lateral plate number, lateral plate length, and pelvic spine length. All morphometric traits demonstrated some degree of FA or directional asymmetry (DA), but the military history of a lake was not a predictor of the degree or type of asymmetry. Overall, the patterns of asymmetry were similar for all traits, irrespective of military contamination at a lake. Our results demonstrate that the suite of threespine stickleback traits measured are not suitable for examination of FA as a proxy for aquatic pollution in this region. DA also does not appear to be suitable as an indicator of aquatic pollution, but may instead be driven by local ecological factors such as predation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-232
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Aleutian Archipelago
  • Directional asymmetry
  • Fluctuating asymmetry
  • Formerly used defense sites
  • FUDs
  • Gasterosteus aculeatus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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