The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is a model organism with an extremely well-characterized ecology, evolutionary history, behavioural repertoire and parasitology that is coupled with published genomic data. These small temperate zone fish therefore provide an ideal experimental system to study common diseases of coldwater fish, including those of aquacultural importance. However, detailed information on the culture of stickleback parasites, the establishment and maintenance of infections and the quantification of host responses is scattered between primary and grey literature resources, some of which is not readily accessible. Our aim is to lay out a framework of techniques based on our experience to inform new and established laboratories about culture techniques and recent advances in the field. Here, essential knowledge on the biology, capture and laboratory maintenance of sticklebacks, and their commonly studied parasites is drawn together, highlighting recent advances in our understanding of the associated immune responses. In compiling this guide on the maintenance of sticklebacks and a range of common, taxonomically diverse parasites in the laboratory, we aim to engage a broader interdisciplinary community to consider this highly tractable model when addressing pressing questions in evolution, infection and aquaculture.
- Gasterosteus aculeatus