- The Genetics Society of Japan
- Genes & Genetic Systems (ISSN:13417568)
- vol.91, no.2, pp.77-84, 2016-04-01 (Released:2016-10-13)
Stickleback fishes have been established as a leading model system for studying the genetic mechanisms that underlie naturally occurring phenotypic diversification. Because of the tremendous diversification achieved by stickleback species in various environments, different geographical populations have unique phenotypes and genotypes, which provide us with unique opportunities for evolutionary genetic research. Among sticklebacks, Japanese species have several unique characteristics that have not been found in other populations. The sympatric marine threespine stickleback species Gasterosteus aculeatus and G. nipponicus (Japan Sea stickleback) are a good system for speciation research. Gasterosteus nipponicus also has several unique characteristics, such as neo-sex chromosomes and courtship behaviors, that differ from those of G. aculeatus. Several freshwater populations derived from G. aculeatus (Hariyo threespine stickleback) inhabit spring-fed ponds and streams in central Honshu and exhibit year-round reproduction, which has never been observed in other stickleback populations. Four species of ninespine stickleback, including Pungitius tymensis and the freshwater, brackish water and Omono types of the P. pungitius-P. sinensis complex, are also excellent model systems for speciation research. Anthropogenic alteration of environments, however, has exposed several Japanese stickleback populations to the risk of extinction and has actually led to extinction of several populations and species. Pungitius kaibarae, which is endemic to East Asia, used to inhabit Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, but is now extinct. Causes of extinction include depletion of spring water, landfill of habitats, and construction of river-mouth weirs. Here, we review the importance of Japanese sticklebacks as genetic resources, the status of several endangered stickleback populations and species, and the factors putting these populations at risk.