Ancient Lakes


A lake of long existence can be extant (ancient lake) or fossil (paleolake) (Gorthner, 1994; Martens, 1997). Ancient lakes typically have continuously existed since before the last glacial period (i.e., ~120,000 years ago) or even since before the Pleistocene some 1.8 million years ago. Lakes such as Baikal, Tanganyika, Malawi, Biwa, and Ohrid, have long been recognized as centres of biodiversity. Moreover, during the past years, ancient lakes have emerged as an important and fruitful topic in the fields of systematics, paleontology, evolutionary biology, and conservational biology. The current understanding of a number of key evolutionary concepts, for example, is in part based on insights from speciation studies in these lakes, and this is evident in the increasing number of citations of articles pertaining to species and speciation in those outstanding ecosystems.
Unfortunately, the geological and evolutionary history of many lakes in the world is still poorly understood and future study will likely uncover previously unrecognized ancient lakes.

Lake Baikal near Bolshie Koty (photograph: T. Wilke)