Sediment core fossils in ancient Lake Ohrid: testing for faunal change since the Last Interglacial
Abstract. Ancient Lake Ohrid is probably of early Pleistocene or Pliocene origin and amongst the few lakes in the world harbouring an outstanding degree of endemic biodiversity. Although there is a long history of evolutionary research in Lake Ohrid, particularly on molluscs, a mollusc fossil record has been missing up to date. For the first time, gastropod and bivalve fossils are reported from the basal, calcareous part of a 2.6 m long sediment succession (core Co1200) from the north-eastern part of Lake Ohrid. Electron spin resonance (ESR) dating of mollusc shells from the same stratigraphic level yielded an age of 130 ± 28 ka. Lithofacies III sediments, i.e. a stratigraphic subdivision comprising the basal succession of core Co1200 between 181.5–263 cm, appeared solid, greyish-white, and consisted almost entirely of silt-sized endogenic calcite (CaCO3>70%) and intact and broken mollusc shells. Here we compare the faunal composition of the thanatocoenosis with recent mollusc associations in Lake Ohrid. A total of 13 mollusc species (9 gastropod and 4 bivalve species) could be identified within Lithofacies III sediments. The value of sediment core fossils for reconstructing palaeoenvironmental settings was evaluated and the agreement between sediment and palaeontological proxies was tested.
The study also aims at investigating major faunal changes since the Last Interglacial and searching for signs of extinction events.
The combined findings of the ecological study and the sediment characteristics suggest deposition in a shallow water environment during the Last Interglacial. The fossil fauna exclusively included species also found in the present fauna, i.e. no extinction events are evident for this site since the Last Interglacial. The thanatocoenosis showed the highest similarity with recent Intermediate Layer (5–25 m water depth) mollusc assemblages. The demonstrated existence of a mollusc fossil record in Lake Ohrid sediment cores also has great significance for future deep drilling projects. It can be hoped that a more far reaching mollusc fossil record will then be obtained, enabling insight into the early evolutionary history of Lake Ohrid.