Lower Miocene stratigraphy along the Panama Canal and its bearing on the Central American Peninsula

PloS One
Michael Xavier KirbyBruce J MacFadden


Before the formation of the Central American Isthmus, there was a Central American Peninsula. Here we show that southern Central America existed as a peninsula as early as 19 Ma, based on new lithostratigraphic, biostratigraphic and strontium chemostratigraphic analyses of the formations exposed along the Gaillard Cut of the Panama Canal. Land mammals found in the Miocene Cucaracha Formation have similar body sizes to conspecific taxa in North America, indicating that there existed a terrestrial connection with North America that allowed gene flow between populations during this time. How long did this peninsula last? The answer hinges on the outcome of a stratigraphic dispute: To wit, is the terrestrial Cucaracha Formation older or younger than the marine La Boca Formation? Previous stratigraphic studies of the Panama Canal Basin have suggested that the Cucaracha Formation lies stratigraphically between the shallow-marine Culebra Formation and the shallow-to-upper-bathyal La Boca Formation, the latter containing the Emperador Limestone. If the La Boca Formation is younger than the Cucaracha Formation, as many think, then the peninsula was short-lived (1-2 m.y.), having been submerged in part by the transgression represented by...Continue Reading


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