The mega lake fluctuated in size between approximately 1.8 million years ago to possibly as recently as 8,500 years ago, until it finally disappeared, Joel Podgorski of the Institute of Geophysics in Zurich, Switzerland told Discovery News. Podgorski's study of the lake's ancient boundaries will be published in the October issue of Geology.
Podgorski used magnetic imaging of the lost lake region to determine its ancient shorelines. His study also found a massive lost inland delta, or mega-fan, beneath the vanished lake. A biological paradise, similar to the modern Okavango Delta, may have first been drowned by the mega-lake, then dessicated when the water drained.
Populations of animals in the two small lakes remaining in the Makgadikgadi region may be remnants of the ancient lake's ecosystem.
"Molecular dating of catfish and crocodiles points to paleo-Lake Makgadikgadi having existed as a connection between now separate populations of these species," said Podgorski. "One could presume that the lake hosted a sizable wildlife population much as the nearby Okavango Delta does today," said Podgorski.