The world beneath Baikal

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Baikal has more endemics than any other lake in the world. Its great age--more than 25 million years--also sets it apart from other freshwater lakes as a living laboratory of evolution. During its life, 30 species ofsculpins (above) have evolved. In comparison, 10,000-year-old Lake Superior has but four species.

Aqualangist under Baikal ice streaming Realvideo

At lake Baikal beneath streaming Realvideo

The deeps of an icy lake in Siberia may seem a hostile environment, but for a huge number of aquatic organisms Baikal is just the opposite. Its cold waters move vertically, carrying oxygen even to the 1,637-meter bottom, where the golomyanka pictured below, one of some 1,500 endemic species, was spotted.

Baikal owes its longevity to the tectonically active rift it occupies, which may cause it to widen by as much as 2.5 centimeters each year.

In June 1990 a joint Soviet-American expedition sponsored in part by the National Geographic Society located hydrothermal vents--evidence of high heat flow beneath the lake.

The information and photos are from the June 1992 issue of the National Geographic magazine.

 

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12.20.2004