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Academic & Professional Books  Marine & Freshwater Biology  Freshwater Biology  Freshwater Habitat

Our Ancient Lakes A Natural History

By: Jeffrey McKinnon(Author)
315 pages, 51 b/w photos and b/w illustrations
Publisher: MIT Press
Our Ancient Lakes
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  • Our Ancient Lakes ISBN: 9780262047852 Hardback Oct 2023 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1 week
Price: £27.00
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

The unexpected diversity, beauty, and strangeness of life in ancient lakes – some millions of years old – and the remarkable insights the lakes are yielding about the causes of biodiversity.

Most lakes are less than 10,000 years old and short-lived, but there is a much smaller number of ancient lakes, tectonic in origin and often millions of years old, that are scattered across every continent but Antarctica: Baikal, Tanganyika, Victoria, Titicaca, and Biwa, to name a few. Often these lakes are filled with a diversity of fish, crustaceans, snails, and other creatures found nowhere else in the world. In Our Ancient Lakes, Jeffrey McKinnon introduces the remarkable living diversity of these aquatic bodies to the general reader and explains the surprising, often controversial, findings that the study of their faunas is yielding about the formation and persistence of species.

The first single-authored volume to synthesize studies of ancient lakes, Our Ancient Lakes provides an overview of the lakes and their distinctive geological origins; accounts of the evolutionary processes that have generated the incredible diversity found in the lakes and produced some of the fastest speciation rates known for vertebrates; the surprisingly important role of interspecies mating in the most rapid diversifications; the uniquely complete records of the creatures that inhabited the lakes, which are being extracted from deep lake sediments; the prospects for the lakes as we tumble into the Anthropocene; and much more.

Shining a light on a class of biodiversity hotspot that is equivalent to coral reefs in the ocean or tropical rainforests on land, Our Ancient Lakes chronicles in a refreshingly personal and accessible way the often singular wonders of these venerable waterbodies.

Customer Reviews


Jeffrey McKinnon received his BSc from the University of British Columbia and his PhD from Harvard University. A Professor of Biology at East Carolina University, his research has taken him to every continent but Antarctica and has appeared in journals including Nature and the American Naturalist.

By: Jeffrey McKinnon(Author)
315 pages, 51 b/w photos and b/w illustrations
Publisher: MIT Press
Media reviews

"McKinnon reveals the secret, almost magical, biology of the earth's ancient lakes with clarity and an undisguised sense of wonder."
– Steven N. Austad, Distinguished Professor, University of Alabama at Birmingham; author of Methuselah's Zoo

"Accomplished evolutionary biologist Jeff McKinnon has succeeded in producing a splendid personal portrait of the natural history, ecology, and evolutionary marvels of the world's great ancient lakes, the scientists and conservationists who study them, and the peoples who depend upon them."
– James T. Costa, Executive Director, Highlands Biological Station of Western Carolina University; author of The Annotated Origin, Darwin's Backyard, and Radical by Nature

"Well-told and often personal stories of the astonishing variety of species that have arisen in the world's ancient lakes (or that evolved from ancient genes in young lakes), and of the people, ideas, and observations of lake studies that have lately transformed our understanding of evolution."
– Dolph Schluter, University Killam Professor, University of British Columbia; author of The Ecology of Adaptive Radiation

"McKinnon introduces readers to the fairy-tale world of golomyankas, nerpas, and other unique creatures populating the deep blue of ancient lakes and delivers an inspiring personal account of evolutionary and ecological processes at play in these wonderful systems at risk."
– Ole Seehausen, Professor, University of Bern and Eawag

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