Lake Baikal - The World's Deepest Lake
When it comes to big lakes, those of us in America are familiar with our 5 Great Lakes. Anyone that lives in that area knows how long it takes to drive around them – they’re huge. But when it comes to volume, Lake Baikal has as much freshwater as all of those lakes combined! It has 20% of the world’s available freshwater and can boast being the deepest lake in the world.
Biodiversity in Lake Baikal
This lake has a few pretty amazing biological stats. It is home to the world’s only true freshwater seal – the Baikal Seal, or Nerpa (A few other marine seals have colonies in lakes). It is also home to some 1,600 species of which 60% are endemic, meaning they’re not found anywhere else in the world. There are a few families of fish (sculpins) that are only found here. Additionally, the amphipods here are world famous.
Amphipods in Lake Baikal
Amphipods are an order of crustacean that generally live in the water. Most of them are pretty small – on average about 0.4 inches. However, there is a species in lake Baikal that can reach nearly 3.5 inches long! These amphipod’s size is restricted to the amount of dissolved oxygen and the oxygen in the lake is really high! In fact, unlike most rift lakes where there exists a strong layering of water, there is little to no layering of dissolved oxygen here. That means that life can exist readily all the way to the bottom.
As I’m a fish biologist, this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the unique fish assemblages. Surprissingly there are only about 60 native fish species here. Yet, half of them are found nowhere else in the world. In particular, the family Abyssocottidae (deep water sculpins), the Comephoridae (Baikal oilfish or Golomyankas) and the Cottocomoephoridae (Baikal Sculpins) are only found in this lake basin.
Some of the neatest unique fish are the Golomyankas, a type of deep water sculpin that lives in open water at depths of about 330 to 1,640 feet. These oily fish are the primary prey of the Baikal seals. There are also sturgeon, and Greyling unique to the lake.