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Worldwide, there are more than 350,000 harbor seals live in saltwater environments, but the harbor seals of Iliamna Lake, Alaska, are unlike any other. These fin-footed animals are the only freshwater lake-dwelling seals in the United States and one of only six populations worldwide. New research by Sean Brennan, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington and colleagues suggests that the roughly 400 harbor seals live permanently in Iliamna Lake, chasing freshwater fish in the lake year-round, supplemented by salmon in the summer. But this unique population is facing a new threat: the proposed Pebble Mine. Brennan notes their unusual ecology could make them more vulnerable than seals in marine settings. Full story

23 April