Constant diversification rates of endemic gastropods in ancient Lake Ohrid: ecosystem resilience likely buffers environmental fluctuations
Ancient lakes represent key ecosystems for endemic freshwater species. This high endemic biodiversity has been shown to be mainly the result of intra-lacustrine diversification. Whereas the principle role of this mode of diversification is generally acknowledged, actual diversification rates in ancient lakes remain little understood. At least four ... types are conceivable. Diversification rates may be constant over time, they may fluctuate, rates may be higher in the initial phase of diversification, or there may be a pronounced lag phase between colonization and subsequent diversification. As understanding the tempo of diversification in ancient lake environments may help reveal the underlying processes that drive speciation and extinction, we here use the Balkan Lake Ohrid as a model system and the largest species flock in the lake, the non-pyrgulinid Hydrobiidae, as a model taxon to study changes in diversification rates over time together with the respective drivers. Based on phylogenetic, molecular-clock, lineage-through-time plot, and diversification-rate analyses we found that this potentially monophyletic group is comparatively old and that it most likely evolved with a constant diversification rate. Preliminary data of the SCOPSCO (Scientific Collaboration On Past Speciation Conditions in Lake Ohrid) deep-drilling program do indicate signatures of severe environmental/climatic perturbations in Lake Ohrid. However, so far there is no evidence for the occurrence of catastrophic environmental events. We therefore propose that the constant diversification rate observed in endemic gastropods has been caused by two factors: (i) a potential lack of catastrophic environmental events in Lake Ohrid and/or (ii) a probably high ecosystem resilience, buffering environmental changes. Parameters potentially contributing to the lake´s high ecosystem resilience are its distinct bathymetry, ongoing tectonic activities, and karst hydrology. The current study not only contributes to one of the overall goals of the SCOPSCO deep-drilling program inferring the driving forces for biotic evolution in Lake Ohrid. It might also enhance our understanding of how ecosystem resilience, in general, may promote relatively constant diversification rates in isolated ecosystems. However, we encourage future studies testing hypotheses about the lack of catastrophic events in Lake Ohrid. These studies should be based on high-resolution data for the entire geological history of the lake, and they should potentially involve information from the sediment fossil record, not only for gastropods but also for other groups with a high share of endemic taxa.