Ancient lakes are hotspots of biodiversity, often harboring a large number of endemic species that make them prime model systems for evolutionary biologists. Besides such well-recognized ancient or long-lived lakes as Baikal, Biwa, Ohrid, and Tanganyika, there are other potentially old and biodiverse lakes in the world with poorly specified ages and under-studied faunas. We here report on the mollusc fauna of one such lake, Lake Trichonis in continental Greece. This graben lake is situated in a highly tectonized area, characterized by karst features and probably of middle to late Pliocene origin. Lake Trichonis is deep, oligotrophic, and rich in such specific habitat types as macrophyte meadows, rocky shores and sublacustrine spring systems. Moreover, it is a hotspot of freshwater biodiversity in Greece, particularly in molluscs.
After reviewing newly collected material and the published mollusc records, we found that at least 33 mollusc species occur in Lake Trichonis, with 24 gastropod and 9 bivalve species currently being recognized. This is 24% of the total freshwater mollusc diversity of Greece; 21% of the gastropods (five species) are endemic to Lake Trichonis. If the whole Trichonis Basin is considered, which also includes neighboring Lake Lysimachia, eight species (33%) of the total fauna appear to be endemic. Taking lake surface areas into account, the index of gastropod endemism of 0.442 (log Nendemic species/log Asurface area) for the Lake Trichonis Basin resembles on a world-wide scale values known for Lake Baikal, Russia, and Lake Biwa, Japan, and is only exceeded by Lake Ohrid, Macedonia/Albania, and ancient lakes of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Despite the limited knowledge about the lake's evolutionary history, the suggested age of origin, the palaeogeographical characteristics, and the potential timing of phylogenetic events reviewed here support the presumed status of Lake Trichonis as an ancient lake.
From a conservational standpoint, more research, management and conservation efforts are necessary because ancient lakes are among the most vulnerable and threatened ecosystems on earth. Effects of human-induced environmental change are already noticeable in Lake Trichonis. Recognition of Lake Trichonis as a unique system with an unusually high biodiversity may help promoting conservation efforts.