Formation of the Isthmus of Panama. Academic Article uri icon


  • 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.

published proceedings

  • Sci Adv

altmetric score

  • 277.206

author list (cited authors)

  • O'Dea, A., Lessios, H. A., Coates, A. G., Eytan, R. I., Restrepo-Moreno, S. A., Cione, A. L., ... Jackson, J.

citation count

  • 431

complete list of authors

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

publication date

  • August 2016