Russia’s Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world. In terms of area, it is larger than all of the Great Lakes combined. Another way of thinking of the lake’s outstanding size is that it is the size of Belgium. The lake happens to be home to the only population of freshwater seals in the world.
This begs the obvious question. How did these seals get to Lake Baikal? The lake sits approximately 1,500-feet above sea level and is over 900-miles from the nearest ocean. Yes, seals can walk, but given the distance, it is unlikely.
There are two primary theories. Both theories are based on genetic similarities between the Baikal seals and the seals found in the Caspian Sea. This leads scientists to Baikal and Capsian Seals used to be one species.
One idea is during the ice age there was widespread flooding from a number of glaciers in modern-day Russia. This heavy flooding could have provided bodies of water for the seals to find their way from the Caspian Sea to Lake Baikal.
The other idea is during the Miocene era that spanned between 23-million and 5-million years ago, the Black Sea and Caspian Seas were joined as one. The bodies of water covered territory that is now dry land. The idea is that when the inland body of water dried up, it stranded these seals in Lake Baikal while the Caspian Seals were trapped in the Caspian Sea.
The proverbial wrench thrown into both of these theories is that the Baikal Seals might be too young of a species for either of these explanations. Whatever the case, they sure are cute.