Saturday, 29 March 2014

Seal teeth reveal environmental change at Lake Baikal

Scientists at Wellesley College are focusing their research on the teeth of Baikal seals in order to uncover the effects of pollution and climate change on Lake Baikal in Russia.

The lake is the deepest, oldest, and most bio-diverse lake in the world, and the Baikal seal, or the nerpa, is found only here. In addition, it is the only seal in the world to live solely in fresh water.

The reason why the seals’ teeth are of special importance to the scientists is that they are essentially a chemical record of the lake. Living up to between 40 to 50 years, the layers of dentine in the teeth of the seals can be studied in relation to environmental patterns and changes.

The Baikal seal is at the top of the food chain in the lake, which makes them particularly interesting for the scientists due to biomagnification – the process by which the concentration of a substance increases with each level of food in the food chain.

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