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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. Intended for a general audience, it is published by MIT Press and distributed by Penguin/Random House, with a publication date of Oct. 17, 2023. I hope you will both read it and enjoy it! It can be obtained from all the usual places, including directly from the publisher. Please feel free to review or rate it online, for example at Goodreads or Amazon.


MIT Press asked several colleagues, individuals I hold in high regard, to comment on the book in advance of publication. Their thoughts can be found here and on the jacket of the book itself, 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.


I am keen to promote the work and (even more) the topic of ancient lake biodiversity. For review copies please contact MIT Press publicist Oscar Sarkes. Regarding interviews or speaking engagements, please contact me directly.

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 during writing.


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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