Stickleback nest 'glue' is antimicrobial

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The glue-like secretion used by male Threespine sticklebacks to construct their nests has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, representing a novel form of parental protection, according to research published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Fish Biology.

Tom Little and coauthors examined the hypothesis that the glue-like secretion used by male Threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in nest building may protect the clutch by inhibiting local bacterial or fungal growth.

The researchers went about this in three ways: (1) by studying the antimicrobial effect of the glue-like secretions on bacterial assays; (2) by studying the anti-fungal effect of the glue-like secretions on fungal assays; and (3) by studying the proportion of successful hatchings from stickleback clutches split into two, with one half being treated with the glue-like secretion and the other half without.

The authors found that the glue-like secretion inhibited both bacterial and fungal growth, as well as a significantly higher proportion of successful hatchings in the eggs treated with the glue-like secretion.

The authors conclude, ...the...observations reported here may now provide the stimulus for research into the molecular compounds that underlie glue's possible antimicrobial effects.

In general, secretions such as fish glue or the foam with which amphibians surround their eggs, which may represent a rich source of novel antimicrobial substances. Indeed, the high species diversity of these groups indicates considerable potential for molecular discovery.

For more information, see the paper: Little, TJ, M Perutz, M Palmer, C Crossan and VA Braithwaite (2008) Male three-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus make antibiotic nests: a novel form of parental protection? Journal of Fish Biology 73, pp. 2380"2389.