Temporal range: Late Miocene - present[1]
Arctic char, Salvelinus alpinus alpinus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Superclass: Osteichthyes
Class: Actinopterygii
Subclass: Neopterygii
Infraclass: Teleostei
Superorder: Protacanthopterygii
Order: Salmoniformes
Family: Salmonidae
Subfamily: Salmoninae
Genus: Salvelinus
J. Richardson, 1836
Type species
Salvelinus umbla
(Linnaeus, 1758)

See text

Salvelinus is a genus of salmonid fish often called char[2] or charr; some species are called "trout". Salvelinus is a member of the Salmoninae subfamily of the Salmonidae family. The genus has a northern circumpolar distribution, and most of its members are typically cold-water fish that primarily inhabit fresh waters. Many species also migrate to the sea, however.

Most char may be identified by light-cream, pink, or red spots over a darker body. Scales tend to be small, with 115-200 along the lateral line. The pectoral, pelvic, anal, and the lower aspect of caudal fins are trimmed in snow white or cream leading edges.

Many members of this genus are popular sport fish, and a few, such as the lake trout (S. namaycush), are the object of commercial fisheries and aquaculture. Occasionally, such fish escape and become invasive species.

Deepwater char are small species of char living below 80 m in the deep areas of certain lakes. They are highly sensitive to changes in the quality of the water and some species, such as Salvelinus neocomensis and Salvelinus profundus, were driven recently to extinction.[3]

Species diversity

As with other salmonid genera, the delimitation of species in Salvelinus is controversial. FishBase in 2015 listed 54 species or subspecies in this genus, many of which have very narrow local distributions.[4] Fourteen localised species are listed from the British Isles alone, although these traditionally, and still by the national conservation and fisheries authorities, are all considered to represent the widespread Arctic charr (S. alpinus). Twenty species are listed from the Asian part of Russia, including several localised taxa from in each of the Kamchatka, Chukotka and Taimyr peninsulas. One of these is the long-finned char, which phylogenetically is part of the Salvelinus group although it has been so far classified into another genus Salvethymus.[5]

The Arctic char (S. alpinus) is the most broadly distributed Salvelinus species. It has a circumpolar distribution, and it is considered the most northern of all freshwater fishes. In North America, five relatively well defined species are present, which, apart from the Arctic char, comprise the brook trout (S. fontinalis), bull trout (S. confluentus), Dolly Varden trout (S. malma) and lake trout (S. namaycush).

This listing presents the taxa recognised in FishBase grouped by geography:



Central Europe
British Isles

Scotland and adjacent islands:

Salvelinus alpinus, Salvelinus colii and Salvelinus grayi, Irish taxa

England and Wales:


Northern Europe

Iceland and Atlantic islands:

Fennoscandia and Northwest Russia:


Arctic drainages
Whitespotted char, Salvelinus leucomaenis
Pacific drainages
Brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis
Dolly Varden trout, Salvelinus malma

North America

Lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush



  1. Sepkoski (2002)
  2.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Char". Encyclopædia Britannica. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 855.
  3. Red List - Volume 1: Vertebrates (2009) - General assessment for the vertebrate groups
  4. Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2015). Species of Salvelinus in FishBase. May 2015 version.
  5. 1 2 Alexander G. Osinov, Anna L. Senchukova, Nikolai S. Mugue, Sergei D. Pavlov, Igor A. Chereshnev (2015) Speciation and genetic divergence of three species of charr from ancient Lake El'gygytgyn (Chukotka) and their phylogenetic relationships with other representatives of the genus Salvelinus Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 116, 63–85.
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