Articles | Volume 22
Workshop report
31 May 2017
Workshop report |  | 31 May 2017

Scientific Drilling at Lake Tanganyika, Africa: A Transformative Record for Understanding Evolution in Isolation and the Biological History of the African Continent, University of Basel, 6–8 June 2016

Andrew S. Cohen and Walter Salzburger

Abstract. We report on the outcomes of a workshop held to discuss evolutionary biology, paleobiology and paleoecology questions that could be addressed by a scientific drilling project at Lake Tanganyika, the largest, deepest and oldest of the African Rift Valley lakes. Lake Tanganyika is of special significance to evolutionary biologists as it harbors one of the most spectacular endemic faunas of any lake on earth, with hundreds of unique species of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and other organisms that have evolved over the lake's long history. Most of these groups of organisms are known from fossils in short cores from the lake, raising the possibility that both body fossil and ancient DNA records might be recovered from long drill cores. The lake's sedimentary record could also provide a record of African terrestrial ecosystem history since the late Miocene. This 3-day workshop brought together biological and geological specialists on the lake and its surroundings to prioritize paleobiological, ecological and microbiological objectives that could ultimately be incorporated into an overall drilling plan for Lake Tanganyika and to consider how biological objectives can effectively be integrated into the paleoclimate and tectonics objectives of a Lake Tanganyika drilling project already considered in prior workshops.

Short summary
A workshop was held in Basel, Switzerland, to discuss the scientific opportunities for evolutionary biology, paleobiology and paleoecology of a drilling project at Lake Tanganyika, one of the oldest and most biodiverse lakes on Earth. A record of the numerous endemic organisms collected from the lake coupling body fossils, environmental history and potentially aDNA or ancient protein records would be transformative for understanding evolution in isolation and the biogeographic history of Africa.