Scientific Collaboration On Past Speciation Conditions in Lake Ohrid

brd     mac

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. The SCOPSCO-drilling program aims at drilling several sites in Lake Ohrid, with the deepest one having a depth of some 680 m. The SCOPSCO program is the first ICDP project worldwide that is primarily conducted for evolutionary purposes. At the same time, supplementary projects aim at utilizing DNA data and molecular clock approaches in order to reconstruct the evolutionary history of selected groups of endemic species. The combination of both approaches, deep drilling and DNA analyses, allows for testing specific hypotheses relative to the effect of environmental changes on speciation processes.

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).

Wilke Schnecken