Ancient lakes are often collectively viewed as evolutionary hot spots of diversification. East Africa's Lake Tanganyika has long been the subject of scientific interest owing to dramatic levels of endemism in species as diverse as cichlid fishes, paludomid gastropods, decapod and ostracod crustaceans and poriferans. It is the largest and deepest of the African rift lakes, and its endemic fauna has been presented with a stable inland environment for over 10 Myr, offering unique opportunities for within–lake diversification. Although astonishing diversification has been documented in the endemic cichlid fauna of the lake, similar patterns of rapid diversification have long been assumed for other groups. In contrast to this hypothesis of rapid speciation, we show here that there has been no acceleration in the rate of speciation in the thalassoid gastropods of the lake following lake colonization. While limited within–lake speciation has occurred, the dramatic conchological diversity of gastropods presently found within the lake has evolved from at least four major lineages that pre–date its formation by as much as 40 Myr. At the same time, a widespread group of African gastropods appears to have evolved from taxa presently found in the lake. While Lake Tanganyika has been a cradle of speciation for cichlid fishes, it has also been an important evolutionary reservoir of gastropod lineages that have been extirpated outside the basin.