Formation of the Isthmus of Panama

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O’Dea, Aaron
Lessios, Harilaos
Coates, Anthony
Eytan, Ron I.
Restrepo-Moreno, Sergio A.
Cione, Alberto L.
Collins, Laurel S.
de Queiroz, Alan
Farris, David W.
Norris, Richard D.
Stallard, Robert
Woodburne, Michael
Aguilera, Orangel
Aubry, Marie-Pierre
Berggren, William A.
Budd, Ann F.
Cozzuol, Mario A.
Coppard, Simon E.
Duque-Caro, Hermann
Finnegan, Seth
Gasparini, Germán M.
Grossman, Ethan L.
Johnson, Kenneth G.
Keigwin, Lloyd D.
Knowlton, Nancy
Leigh, Egbert G.
Leonard-Pingel, Jill S.
Marko, Peter B.
Pyenson, Nicholas
Rachello-Dolmen, Paola G.
Soibelzon, Esteban
Soibelzon, Leopoldo
Todd, Jonathan A.
Vermeij, Geerat J.
Jackson, Jeremy B. C.
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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.
© The Author(s), 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Science Advances 2 (2016): e1600883, doi:10.1126/sciadv.1600883.
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Science Advances 2 (2016): e1600883
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