The world’s only freshwater seal is found in Lake Baikal in Siberia. No one knows how it got there, but researchers from NTNU have studied it for many years. They are eager to figure out why the Baikal seal has much lower levels of mercury than its saltwater cousins, despite the significant industrial emissions in the Lake Baikal region. One of several theories is that the high mountains that surround the lake protect it from airborne pollution.
Scientists do not yet know whether mercury values in Baikal seals are on the increase, as has been the case with other polar mammals, such as polar bears and ringed seals in Greenland. But they hope to get results of analyses in 2013 that will enable them to answer these and other questions more precisely.