Formation of the Isthmus of Panama

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Science Advances  17 Aug 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 8, e1600883
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600883

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  • Building bridges

    Building bridges
    A. O’Dea, H. A. Lessios, A. G. Coates, R. I. Eytan, S. A. Restrepo-Moreno, A. L. Cione, L. S. Collins, A. de Queiroz, D. W. Farris, R. D. Norris, R. F. Stallard, M. O. Woodburne, O. Aguilera, M.-P. Aubry, W. A. Berggren, A. F. Budd, M. A. Cozzuol, S. E. Coppard, H. Duque-Caro, S. Finnegan, G. M. Gasparini, E. L. Grossman, K. G. Johnson, L. D. Keigwin, N. Knowlton, E. G. Leigh, J. S. Leonard-Pingel, P. B. Marko, N. D. Pyenson, P. G. Rachello-Dolmen, E. Soibelzon, L. Soibelzon, J. A. Todd, G. J. Vermeij, J. B. C. Jackson
    Response to Erkens and Hoorn: “The Panama Isthmus, ‘old’, ‘young’ or both?”

    We thank Erkens and Hoorn for their constructive comments. Like us, they believe that collaboration between biologists, geologists and paleontologists focusing on data and analyses is required to unravel the history of the Isthmus of Panama. We agree with Erkens and Hoorn that the formation of the isthmus was complex and the model we present (summarized here in Figure 1) demonstrates a protracted transition from a submerged arc to semi-emergent island chain to isthmus. Importantly, our review and new data confirm the long-held conclusion that abundant seawater flowed between the oceans until ~3Ma, and therefore, by definition, an isthmus did not form until that time.
    We applaud Erken and Hoorn’s presentation of a “third option” and find that it generally agrees with the model of Isthmus formation that we support. It has long been understood t...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: The Panama Isthmus, ‘old’, ‘young’ or both?
    • Roy H.J, Erkens, Maastricht Science Programme, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
    • Other Contributors:
      • Carina Hoorn, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The recent paper by O’Dea et al. (2016) entitled 'Formation of the Isthmus of Panama' reviews the evidence in literature in favor of the formation of the Isthmus of Panama sensu stricto around 2.8 Ma. This paper claims that the model of a much older Panamanian land bridge, as for instance proposed by Montes et al. (2015) based on geological data and Bacon et al. (2015) based on molecular phylogenetic work, is incorrect. O’Dea et al. (2016) reach the conclusion that closure of the Central American Seaway was much younger thus reconfirming the views held for decades before.

    O’Dea et al. (2016) “strongly caution against the uncritical acceptance of the old Isthmus hypothesis”. Both Hoorn (2015) and Erkens (2015) are cited as examples of this “uncritical attitude” towards the “old” Panama model. We feel this frontal attack is unjustified for two reasons. Firstly, why do O’Dea et al. (2016) assume we “uncritically” accepted the new model that was presented? We both reviewed the data at hand and based on a critical analysis came to the conclusion that the data of Montes et al. (2015) were a valuable contribution to the discussion on the age of the Panamanian land bridge. Secondly, we feel that the authors give a biased and unjustified portrayal of the state of affairs. Although the “old” model indeed needs to be further consolidated, it is clear that the de facto closure (both from the geological and a biological point of view) is much older than 3 million ye...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.