We define ancient lakes as those that contain sedimentary records that span timescales since at least the last interglacial (c. 128 ka before present (BP)). We use this definition because by far the majority of diatom applications and reconstructions are undertaken on lakes that have formed since the end of the last glaciation (Termination 1). Ancient lakes are commonly found within grabens in active rift zones. Important examples include lakes Baikal (Russia), Biwa (Japan), Hövsgöl (Mongolia), Kivu (Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda), Malawi (Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania), Ohrid (Albania and Macedonia) and Prespa (Greece, Albania and Macedonia), Tanganyika (Burundi, Congo, Tanzania), Titicaca (Bolivia, Peru), Tule (USA), and Victoria (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda). These extant lakes contain sedimentary archives that often span at least the full Quaternary period (c. 2.6 million years (Ma)). Other ancient lakes with significantly long sedimentary archives include those associated with volcanic activity, e.g. Lake Albano (Italy), karst landscapes, e.g. Ioannina (Greece), and meteorite-impact craters such as El'gygytgyn (Russia), Pingualuit (Canada), Bosumtwi (Ghana), and Tswaing (formerly known as the Pretoria Salt Pan) (South Africa).
Diatom records from ancient lakes provide potentially powerful insights into mechanisms of environmental change over glacial–interglacial (G–IG) timescales, with most studies focusing on interpretation of paleoclimate records. However, records from ancient lakes can also provide useful insights into ecology and evolution of diatoms over long timescales (Khursevich et al. 2001).