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The Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) is a species of salmonid. It is native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America. In the past it has been mistaken for a species of trout. Dolly Varden are in the genus Salvelinus of true chars. They are covered with light spots on a dark background (trout have dark spots on a light background). They may either be landlocked or anadromous (meaning they migrate to the sea). The coloring depends on their environment. Those that travel to the sea (anadromous) are dark blue on the head, back and upper sides. Freshwater (or landlocked) Dolly Varden are brown to olive green on the head, back and upper sides. The belly is light colored. They feed on aquatic insects, other fish and their eggs.
Origin of the name
Dolly Varden was the name of a fictional character in an 1841 Charles Dickens novel. She was known for liking brightly colored dresses. At that time very colorful women's dresses were called "Dolly Vardens". Livingston Stone noted that in 1872 fishermen on the McCloud River in California were calling the brightly colored fish they caught "Dolly Varden" after the dresses. But there were no Dolly Varden in the McCloud river. They may have been catching its near relative the Bull Trout. In spite of the mistake the name stuck for 'Salvelinus malma'.
- "Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma)". Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 2014. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=dollyvarden.main. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
- Joseph S. Nelson; Martin Joseph Paetz The Fishes of Alberta (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press; Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1992), p. 285
- "B. C. Fish Facts: Dolly Varden". British Columbia, Ministry of Fisheries. ND. http://gofishbc.com/documents/pdf/fish-facts/Dolly_Varden.pdf. Retrieved 18 May 2014. [dead link]
- Robert Behnke, Trout and Salmon of North America (New York: The Free Press, 2002), pp. 315–16