Rare Welsh torgoch are genetically distinct

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A study on three populations of a rare member of the salmon family found in Wales has shown that the fish are genetically distinct.

Ian McCarthy of the University of Wales in Bangor presented a review on the Torgoch - a form of the Arctic char, Salvelinus alpinus - at the Char Network International Conference in 2004 and his findings have just been published in a special edition of the journal Ecology of Freshwater Fish which is devoted to the species.

The Torgoch (Welsh for 'red belly') is found in seven lakes in north Wales, as well as in a number of other locations, mainly in the north of England and Scotland.

Three of the populations - Bodlyn, Cwellyn and Padarn - are natural populations made up of distinct forms of the species that differ genetically from each other. The same species, has also been translocated or introduced into four other Welsh lakes - Cowlyd, Diwaunedd, Dulyn and Fynnon Llugwy.

McCarthy says that the Welsh populations of Salvelinus alpinus have not been studied much but it is believed that the fish, which reaches a size of 14-24cm/5.5-9.5", feeds predominantly on zooplankton including copepods and cladocerans, such as Daphnia.

Unlike trout which can produce thousands of eggs, the Torgoch is much less fecund and probably only produces 100-800 eggs at a spawning. McCarthy believes that the growth rate and size attained is similar to that of other forms of char found in the UK.

For more details on the Torgoch see the paper: ID McCarthy (2006) - The Welsh Torgoch (Salvelinus alpinus): a short review of its distribution and ecology. Ecology of Freshwater Fish. In press.