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Formation of the Isthmus of Panama

August 3, 2016

The formation of the Isthmus of Panama stands as one of the greatest natural events of the Cenozoic, driving profound biotic transformations on land and in the oceans. Some recent studies suggest that the Isthmus formed many millions of years earlier than the widely recognized age of approximately 3 million years ago (Ma), a result that if true would revolutionize our understanding of environmental, ecological, and evolutionary change across the Americas. To bring clarity to the question of when the Isthmus of Panama formed, we provide an exhaustive review and reanalysis of geological, paleontological, and molecular records. These independent lines of evidence converge upon a cohesive narrative of gradually emerging land and constricting seaways, with formation of the Isthmus of Panama sensu stricto around 2.8 Ma. The evidence used to support an older isthmus is inconclusive, and we caution against the uncritical acceptance of an isthmus before the Pliocene.

Publication Year 2016
Title Formation of the Isthmus of Panama
DOI 10.1126/sciadv.1600883
Authors Aaron O'Dea, Orangel Aguilera, Marie-Pierre Aubry, William A. Berggren, Alberto L. Cione, Anthony G. Coates, Laurel S. Collins, Simon E. Coppard, Mario A. Cozzuol, Alan de Queiroz, Herman Duque-Caro, Ron I. Eytan, David W. Farris, German M. Gasparini, Ethan L. Grosmman, Jeremy B. C. Jackson, Kenneth G. Johnson, Lloyd D. Keigwin, Nancy Knowlton, Egbert G. Leigh, Jill S. Leonard-Pingel, Hailaos A. Lessios, Peter B. Marko, Richard D. Norris, Paola G. Rachello-Dolmen, Sergio A. Restrepo-Moreno, Leopoldo Soibelzon, Robert F. Stallard, Jonathan A. Todd, Geerat J. Vermeiju, Michael O. Woodburne
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science Advances
Index ID 70176243
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch