Megalake Paratethys

The largest lake in earth’s history existed 11 million years ago and stretched across southern Europe and Asia. Its origins go back over 100 million years ago when the supercontinent of Gondwanaland split apart. The ocean that formed between the drifting continents is known as the Tethys Ocean. During the middle of the Miocene the Alps Mountain chain uplifted, cutting the Tethys Ocean into 2 halves. The southern half became the Mediterranean Sea, and the upper half turned into a massive freshwater lake known as Megalake Paratethys. This body of water existed for 5 million years, but further mountain uplift and climate change caused it to gradually recede. The freshwater lake shrank into an isolated salt lake and many individual lakes that fluctuated between salt and fresh. Today, the Black, Caspian, and Aral Seas are all that remains of Megalake Paratethys.

Map of Megalake Paratethys. Image from the below referenced article.
Unique endemic whales lived in Megalake Paratethys. Image also from the below article.

Megalake Paratethys hosted many endemic species found nowhere else. Whales and dolphins isolated from other ocean populations evolved into dwarf species, including the 9 foot long Cetatherium riabini. The grasslands that replaced the receding lake spawned the evolution of ancestors of modern day antelope, sheep, and goats.


Paleoj, D. ; et al

“Late Marine Megalake Regression in Eurasia”

Scientific Reports 11 #11471 2021

Perkins, S.

“The Rise and Fall of the Earth’s Largest Lake” June 4, 2021


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