Formation of the Isthmus of Panama

Aaron O’Dea, Harilaos A. Lessios, Anthony G. Coates, Ron I. Eytan, Sergio A. Restrepo-Moreno, Alberto L. Cione, Laurel S. Collins, Alan De Queiroz, David W. Farris, Richard D. Norris, Robert F. Stallard, Michael O. Woodburne, Orangel Aguilera, Marie Pierre Aubry, William A. Berggren, Ann F. Budd, Mario A. Cozzuol, Simon E. Coppard, Herman Duque-Caro, Seth FinneganGermán M. Gasparini, Ethan L. Grossman, Kenneth G. Johnson, Lloyd D. Keigwin, Nancy Knowlton, Egbert G. Leigh, Jill S. Leonard-Pingel, Peter B. Marko, Nicholas D. Pyenson, Paola G. Rachello-Dolmen, Esteban Soibelzon, Leopoldo Soibelzon, Jonathan A. Todd, Geerat J. Vermeij, Jeremy B.C. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

588 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1600883
JournalScience Advances
Volume2
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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