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Patterns and processes of salmonid diversification in Europe's oldest body of freshwater, Lake Ohrid


Fishes of the family Salmonidae hold the highest economic, ecological and evolutionary interest among all temperate freshwater fishes. While the bulk of European research focuses on a few widespread commercially important species like brown trout, Arctic char and European grayling, little attention has been given to almonds in the Balkan Peninsula, one of the most important centres for evolutionary radiation of European fauna and flora. The region also contains the most unique yet understudied freshwater habitat in Europe, Lake Horrid. Lake Horrid is Europe's oldest lake, believed to have been formed as early as the Tertiary period. As it was never affected by Pleistocene glaciations, highly unique flora and fauna characterize it. Such large relict lakes provide superb natural laboratories for studying the evolution of biodiversity. Young pairs of sympatric salmon species are frequently observed in lake systems and Lake Horrid is no exception. For example, at least five endemic species of Salmon (trout and salmon) have been described though none with modern approaches. This project seeks to comprehensively describe the pattern and ongoing process of salmon diversification, and the uncertain, unknown, and cryptic diversity within and near Lake Horrid. Using molecular genetic and morphological tools and accompanying statistical approaches, this diversity will be assessed as well in terms of its underlying historical and contemporary causes. Additional inferences on the modes and mechanisms of lake community diversification will be drawn through comparison with other ancient systems, namely Lake Balkan and Lake Tanganyika. The project will contribute to the objectives of the "Biodiversity and Ecosystems" area (Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems) announced in the 6FP work program.

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