Meet The Inhabitants Of The World’s Oldest And Deepest Lake

If you want to visit the world’s oldest lake, you’d need to travel to southeastern Siberia where you can find Lake Baikal.

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre Lake Baikal is situated in southeastern Siberia and is believed to have existed for some 25 million years.

Photo: Flickr/Sergey Pesterev License: CC BY-SA 2.0

With depths reaching 5,600 feet (1,700 meters) and geographical isolation keeping much of humanity at bay, the lake has drawn scientists and researchers for decades.

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre notes that the lake’s “age and isolation have produced one of the world’s richest and most unusual freshwater faunas.” It’s even been nicknamed the “Galapagos of Russia” due to its unusual and diverse wildlife.

Photo: Flickr/Sergey Pesterev License: CC BY-SA 2.0

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, an estimated 80% of the species that call Lake Baikal home aren’t found anywhere else in the world. Among those unique species is the Baikal oilfish (aka: the golomyankas).

The Fishbase database, Baikal oilfish generally live around depths of 850 feet below the surface of the water. While most fish sink immediately after dying, the Baikal oilfish have such high-fat content (25%) that they float to the surface of the leak when they die, freezing into the ice over winter.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Dr. Günter Pinzke License: CC BY-SA 2.5

The translucent-bodied fish can grow up to 8 inches long. Not only do these oilfish look peculiar, but they also act peculiar, practicing cannabilism and often gobbling up their young as part of a diet of planktonic copepods, amphipods, and larvae, according to a Russian Baikal travel website.

Beyond cannibalistic fish, the lake is also home to unique bacteria, sponges, limpets, and other fish.

Photo: Flickr/Internet Archive Book Images License: CC0 1.0

While not scientifically validated, the Key To Baikal reports that some believe in the Lusud-Khan, a water dragon that once lived at the bottom of the lake that resembles both the crocodile and the ancient ichthyosaur. The Buryats still exercise caution surrounding the monster, just in case.

With such a vast, deep lake, we can only imagine it holds some secrets.

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