It lies at the southern tip of the Rift Valley which begins 3,000 miles to the north at the top of the Red Sea, between Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. The lake formed as the earth's crust parted due to tectonic forces deep below the surface. This is the fourth deepest lake in the world, reaching 2,280 feet in depth, much deeper than any lake in North America or Europe. in surface area it ranks tenth, a bit bigger than Lake Erie. However, what sets Lake Malawi apart is the biodiversity of cichlid fishes, with about 2,000 described species, most of them unique to the lake, more than any other similarly-sized freshwater body. The reasons for this are unclear but scientists believe it has to do with periodic changes in depth which created isolated populations of fishes, allowing unique species to evolve.

Lake Malawi, once known as Lake Nyasa, was first discovered by Europeans in 1859.
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