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Our Ancient Lakes: A Natural History

I have written a book about the remarkable living diversity found in ancient lakes, the insights these systems are providing about evolution, and the threats they face. It is intended for a general audience and published by MIT Press


MIT Press asked several colleagues to comment on the book; their thoughts can be found here and on the book jacket, except, by an accident of timing, those from Ole Seehausen. To ensure his are not overlooked, I have copied them below:

“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.”

That sums the book up pretty well, generously of course. The figure below shows the main lakes and their denizens.

A shockingly long list of people helped with this project and they are acknowledged in the book. But I want to particularly highlight Furthermore, a program of the J.M. Kaplan fund, for support.

For review copies please contact MIT Press publicist David Olsen. Regarding interviews or speaking engagements, please contact me directly. Recent book related events have included Town Hall Seattle, Washington; Science on Tap, Milwaukee Public Museum; the Paul Burton Seminar, Western Carolina U. 

Available online are a recent webinar with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and a podcast interview with the Fisheries Podcast (that was really fun to do!).

An edited excerpt from the book, entitled, "Lessons From Lake Tanganyika’s Scale Eating Fish" has lately been published in the MIT Press Reader and reprinted in Popular Science.

A still shorter version, entitled, "A Peculiar Fish and an Evolutionary Mystery," appears on the Nautilus science site.

Lake Baikal is the focus of an excerpt published through the Live Science​ site. This seems to have been translated, more or less, into a number of languages including French, Portuguese and Indonesian.

A "Books in Brief" review appears in Nature and additional reviews and ratings are available though Goodreads.


Figure 1.3 (prepared by Haleigh Mooring, revised by Ivan Boyers) from the book (color added). The best-known ancient lakes and the main radiations featured. Lake details are approximate, for illustrative purposes, colors are not to life, and not all radiations (e.g., ostracod crustaceans and diatoms) are illustrated  (modeled in part after Cristescu et al., Molecular Ecology (2010)).

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