Baikal World - information about fauna of Baikal lake and Baikal region
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Explanation of the local terms and geographical names at lake Baikal
Fauna of Lake Baikal

Baikal has 53 species of fish which belong to 13 families.

The Baikal ichthyofauna has formed as a result of freshwater fish getting into the lake at different times. All the fish according to its origin and habitat conditions can be subdivided into several groups:

1. The fish characteristic of Siberian valley reservoirs such as sturgeon, pike, eel-pout, ide, roach, dace, perch, minnow occupy mostly coastal shallow waters, half closed bays ("sory") and river mouths;

2. Siberian mountain rivers fish: grayling, taimen, lenok inhabit small inflowing streams of the lake and its coastal area;

3. To estuaryarctic fish belong omul and sig (white fish), the former of which lives both in open and coastal parts of the lake while the latter is spread only in the coastal area. Omul, sig, as well as grayling are members of the salmonidae family.

fauna of lake Baikal - Baikal omul fish Omul has been the symbol of Lake Baikal, in addition to bread that has been a symbol of Russia since time immemorial. There are five types of omul: Selenginsky, Chivyrkuisky, Severobaikalsky, Barguzinsky and Posolsky. They differ morphologically and by their spawning areas - 5 tributaries of Baikal. The instinct of continuation of generation forces the omul to overcome turbulent rapids and river shoals. The caviar is left on the sandy and pebbly bottoms with moderate flows, and
the development of its larvae lasts 6-7 months. For different reasons, a greater part of the caviar perishes: it is either buried under sand and silt or eaten up by predators. Omul lives 18-20 years.

It is assumed that the ancestors of omul got into Baikal from the polar regions - Arctic ocean. One theory is that there was a time when a group of omul, going with the stream up Arctic rivers to spawn, came to Baikal and favoured these conditions for breeding and development. Probably the rout of infiltration of this fish drove on Yenisei and Angara rivers. The omul's colonization of Baikal and its adaptation to new living conditions appeared to be Nature's tremendous experiment, revealing flexibility and adaptability of aquatic organisms to changes of the environment. Omul biomass in Lake Baikal by data of the survey made on May 25 - June 5, 1999 = 26000 ton (300 000 000)

fauna of lake Baikal - Baikal graying Grayling. Local name for grayling - harius. A sappy fat fish can weigh up to 12 pounds and more. Splendid sporting items of fishery are the black and the white Baikal graylings. In spring, after the ice breaks up, the black Baikal grayling, a surprisingly graceful fish with a high spinal fin, sparkling with all rainbow colours, move up into the rivers falling into Baikal. It overcomes the rapids and zaloms (wood-piles stuck in a river) up to one metre high, and 17 days later the caviar
gives life to the larvae that roll backwards into Baikal. The black grayling lives both in the lake's quiet waters and swift mountain rivers.

Sturgeon. Special place in the lake's ichthyofauna is taken by the Baikal sturgeon which largely inhabit the areas of the Baikal's major tributaries: the delta zone of the Selenga River, Proval Bay, Chivyrkuy and Barguzin Buys. The sturgeons migrate widely throughout the whole lake alongside the coastal line of Baikal, swimming into bays and coves. In former times, the sturgeons caught used to weigh about 250 pounds, yet, they grow slowly and mature late.

fauna of lake Baikal - Baikal bullheads Bullheads. Born in Baikal from an ancient form, a kin to the Anadyr and Michigan bullheads, they are represented in Baikal by 20 species, 20 of which are endemic. There is a variety of deep sea bottom bullheads - the shirokolobka ('wide forehead', as called locally). Largely, the bullheads are typical inhabitants of the bottom, occupying all water depths. Also, Baikal homes the world's most abyssal fish living in fresh water. These fish have preserved eyesight even at the greatest
depths, though it is black-and-white there, in fact. Two species of the bullheads: the yellow-fin and the black-crest - inhabit the water depths. These pelagic forms live in the upper 100 metre thick layer, feeding on the epischura and the yur. The pelagic bullheads' fries, especially those of the yellow-fin bullheads, the so called poyed (glad meal), is one of the food components for the omul.

fauna of lake Baikal - Baikal golomyanka Golomyanka (fat fish). The most interesting of bullheads are these fishes. The Lake wonder! Golomyanka can be found nowhere else on the earth. It is unusually beautiful, sparkles blue and pink in sunshine. However, the sunshine causes it to melt! Only bones and a fat spot will be left there. It contains about 30% of oil, rich in vitamin A. There was a time when Tibetian monks came to Baikal and gathered golomyanka along the shores. Its fat was used as a remedy for
many diseases. Native Siberians used it as the fuel for their lamps, and also medicinally. Old residents said that long time ago, after the storms, golomyankas were picked alongside the shores, the fat was melted and used in treatments for rheumatism, atherosclerosis and for healing wounds.

Golomyanka is the main and the most numerous inhabitant of Baikal, but it very seldom gets into fishermen's nets. Its resources amount for about 150 thousand tons, but on neither of its life stages does it swim in great gatherings or schools, and, that's why, it's not entered in the food-fish list. Its predator is nerpa (the Baikal seal), for which golomyanka is the staple diet.

Golomyanka is a very independent fish and quite different from its relatives who tend to shoal. It prefers a solitary existence. Golomyanka fish lives down in the depth of Lake between 700-1600 feet where the water temperature is low. It is noted that the golomyanka is very sensitive to the temperature of water. The temperature of up to +5C is optimal for it, it avoids higher temperatures, and +10C is mortal for it.

This fish is small in size, 15-20 cm long. It's designed to live in extreme pressures. Interesting are vertical migrations of Golomyanka from small depth to bottoms of very deep depressions, where even a cannon cannot shoot (because of the enormous pressure). Golomyanka moves up and down obeying the waves. This is probably due to the absence of swimming bladder and strong fins. During migrations the change of pressure leads to forced stops necessary for the adaptation to existing conditions. At night Golomyanka rises to the water surface, and at daytime it swims down to great depths.

Each autumn the females being viviparous instead of laying eggs produce 2000-3000 of larvae ready to swim progeny and after that they are generally died.

SYSTEMATIC COMPOSITION
of the Baikal ichthyofauna including acclimatized species:


Family
Number of kinds
Number of species and subspecies
% out of the total number of species
Number of endemic (species and subspecies)
Cyprinidae
7
9
17
Percidae
1
1
2
Cobitidae
2
2
4
Esocidae
1
1
2
Gadidae
1
1
2
Thymallidae
1
2
4
2
Coregonidae
1
3
5
1
Salmonidae
3
3
5
Acipenseridae
1
1
2
1
Cottidae
4
7
13
5
Comephoridae
1
2
4
2
Abyssocottidae
6
20
38
20
Siluridae
1
1
2
Total:
30
53
100
31
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