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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. I will be appearing at some book related events the next while. If one is in your area, please come!

(Saturday Dec. 9, 2-4pm: Barnes and Noble, Greenville NC; I 

     donated about half the total proceeds from book sales to the

     Tanganyika Nature Conservancy Project)

Monday, Jan. 22, evening: Town Hall Seattle, Washington

Friday, Feb. 2, 11am: Learn with an Expert, Milwaukee Public

     Museum (online, link to come)

Thursday, Feb. 8, evening: Science on Tap, Milwaukee Public

     Museum (I am using the honorarium to buy copies of the

     book for libraries in ancient lake nations with limited resources)

Thursday, Feb. 22, 4pm: Biology Seminar, ECU, Greenville NC

Friday April 19, 12 noon: Paul Burton Seminar, Western Carolina U

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.


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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