Arctic charr in Britain and Ireland – 15 species or one?


C. E. Adams, University Field Station, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G63 0AW, UK;


Abstract –  From both a modern and a historical perspective there is little doubt that the Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus, in Britain and Ireland (as well as elsewhere) is a ‘difficult’ species. Historically 15 separate species have been recognised from populations in Britain and Ireland and there have been recent attempts to reassert these specific names. Here we review the evidence for the status of these ‘species’. We conclude that the evidence for these 15 being afforded full species status is poor. However, both historical and contemporary data show that Salvelinus alpinus (Linnaeus 1758) in Britain and Ireland exhibits levels of variability in form that is much greater than in other species. We argue that a comprehensive genotypic and phenotypic survey of charr populations in Britain and Ireland is required to determine the full extent of variability and the status of populations with a view of providing suitable protection.