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Keywords:

  • polymorphism;
  • variability

Abstract –  There is a very high degree of discrete variation in phenotype between populations of Arctic charr. This takes the form of variation not only in morphometric and meristic characters traditionally used to distinguish species, but also in characteristics of life-history, behaviour, coloration and ecology. This variability has a number of consequences, one of these is that there is a strong case for the conservation of populations with extreme phenotypes. However, if variation is discrete between populations but continuous across many populations, this poses difficulties in separating those populations of high conservation value from those of lower conservation value. In this paper we describe a statistical technique which enables populations on the extreme edges of the range of phenotypic variation to be identified and apply this to the morphometric characters of charr from 25 populations from across Scotland and Ireland. The technique enables the identification of any proportion of the most extreme phenotypes. When applied to our data, one population (Loch More) was in the top 2 percentile of the most extreme phenotypes from across the range of all populations included. Three populations were within the top 10% most extreme phenotypes (Lochs More, Uaine and Earn) and a further five within the top 20% (previously mentioned lochs plus Lochs Eck, Merkland, Uaine, Talla and Lough Nalughraman). This technique can potentially be used on any species and on any suite of characteristics as an objective measure of conservation value of a population within a continuous phenotypic range.