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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Feb 27, 2024

Discover the unexpected diversity, beauty, and strangeness of life in ancient lakes — some millions of years old — and the remarkable insights they yield about the causes of biodiversity.

Most lakes are less than 10,000 years old and short-lived, but there is a much smaller number of ancient lakes, tectonic in origin and often millions of years old, that are scattered across every continent but Antarctica: Baikal, Tanganyika, Victoria, Titicaca, and Biwa, to name a few. Often these lakes are filled with a diversity of fish, crustaceans, snails, and other creatures found nowhere else in the world. In Our Ancient Lakes, biology professor Jeffrey McKinnon introduces the remarkable living diversity of these aquatic bodies to the general reader and explains the surprising, often controversial, findings that the study of their faunas yield about the formation and persistence of species.

Shining a light on a class of biodiversity hot spot equivalent to coral reefs in the ocean or tropical rainforests on land, Our Ancient Lakes chronicles the often singular wonders of these venerable water bodies.

Jeffrey McKinnon grew up reading Gerald Durrell and Farley Mowat, absorbing Jacques Cousteau and Marlin Perkins’ teachings from the TV, and watching animals in the ditches, farmyards, forests, and tidepools of Western Canada. He received his BSc from the University of British Columbia and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. A Professor of Biology at East Carolina University, his research has taken him to every continent but Antarctica and has appeared in journals including Nature and the American Naturalist.