CHAR (Salvelinus), a fish of the family Salmonidae, represented in Europe, Asia and North America. The best known and most widely distributed species, the one represented in British and Irish lakes, is S. alpinus, a graceful and delicious fish, covered with very minute scales and usually dark olive, bluish or purplish black above, with or without round orange or red spots, pinkish white or yellowish pink to scarlet or claret red below. When the char go to sea, they assume a more silvery coloration, similar to that of the salmon and sea trout; the red spots become very indistinct and the lower parts are almost white. The very young are also silvery on the sides and white below, and bear 11 to 15 bars, or parr-marks, on the side. This fish varies much according to localities; and the difference in colour, together with a few points of doubtful constancy, have given rise to the establishment of a great number of untenable so-called species, as many as seven having been ascribed to the British and Irish fauna, viz. S. alpinus, nivalis, killinensis, willoughbyi, perisii, colii and grayi, the last from Lough Melvin, Ireland, being the most distinct. S. alpinus varies much in size according to the waters it inhabits, remaining dwarfed in some English lakes, and growing to 2 ft. or more in other localities. In other parts of Europe, also, various local forms have been distinguished, such as the “omble chevalier” of the lakes of Switzerland and Savoy (S. umbla), the “Säbling” of the lakes of South Germany and Austria (S. salvelinus), the “kullmund” of Norway (S. carbonarius), &c., while the North American S. parkei, alipes, stagnalis, arcturus, areolus, oquassa and marstoni may also be regarded as varieties. Taken in this wide sense, S. alpinus has a very extensive distribution. In central Europe, in the British islands and in the greater part of Scandinavia it is confined to mountain lakes, but farther to the north, in both the Old World and the New, it lives in the sea and ascends rivers to spawn. In Lapland, Iceland, Greenland and other parts of the arctic regions, it ranks among the commonest fishes. The extreme northern point at which char have been obtained is 82° 34′ N. (Victoria lake and Floeberg Beach, Arctic America). It reaches an altitude of 2600 ft. in the Alps and 6000 ft. in the Carpathians.
The American brook char, S. fontinalis, is a close ally of S. alpinus, differing from it in having fewer and shorter gill-rakers, a rather stouter body, the back more or less barred or marbled with dark olive or black, and the dorsal and caudal fins mottled or barred with black. Many local varieties of colour have been distinguished. Sea-run individuals are often nearly plain bright silvery. It is a small species, growing to about 18 in. abundant in all clear, cold streams of North America, east of the Mississippi, northward to Labrador. The fish has been introduced into other parts of the United States, and also into Europe.
Another member of the same section of Salmonidae is the Great Lake char of North America, S. namaycush, one of the largest salmonids, said to attain a weight of 100 ℔. The body is very elongate and covered with extremely small scales. The colour varies from grey to black, with numerous round pale spots, which may be tinged with reddish; the dorsal and caudal fins reticulate with darker. This fish inhabits the Great Lakes regions and neighbouring parts of North America.