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Major evolutionary events in ancient Lake Ohrid as indicators for its origin and limnological history


In cooperation with Sasho Trajanovski (Hydrobiological Institute in Ohrid) and Bernd Wagner (University of Cologne)
Supported by DFG grants WI 1902/8-1 and AL 1076/3-1

The Balkan Lake Ohrid is the most outstanding European ancient lake with the highest degree of endemic biodiversity of any worldwide ancient lake when taking lake size into account. Whereas the geology of the basin and the hydrology of the lake are fairly well studied, the limnological history and age of Lake Ohrid are largely unknown. Age estimates in the literature vary from 2-10 My with the relevant data mostly being very old. In fact, basically all hypotheses for the origin of extant Lake Ohrid were established almost 100 years ago and none of these hypotheses has been tested within a modern scientific framework. Moreover, there is controversy about whether the outstanding degree of endemism in Lake Ohrid is the result of presumed long-term environmental stability or rapid breaks of the lake’s environment due to major geological, hydrological or climatic changes.
The main goals of the current proposal are to use independent phylogeographical data from several invertebrate groups: a) to unravel the origin of extant Lake Ohrid faunas, thus yielding information on the lakes limnological history, b) to provide a timing of major evolutionary events in the Ohrid Basin triggering bursts of speciation and leading to the extraordinary diversity and endemism in many taxa, c) to test for a correlation of these data with major geological/limnological/environmental changes, and d) to understand the effect of geological, physico-chemical, and/or environmental stasis vs. changes onto the evolutionary history of the lake.
The project is of general and theoretical importance as inferring the timing of major evolutionary events in Lake Ohrid will not only help to shed light onto the uncertain limnological history of the lake, it would also be one of the first instances where molecular evolutionary biologists attempt to unravel major limnological events in ancient lakes in combination with an International Continental Deep Drilling Project (ICDP).