Panama is expanding its namesake canal, which has required monumental excavations to accommodate the world's growing fleet of ships that are too large for the original channels.
Nevertheless, he says, these new questions are important to answer because the rise of the isthmus was the "last big episode of global change." The effect of a new land mass on ocean currents is remarkably tricky to understand.So what was a 20 million-year-old fossilized tree doing there?A new body of data emerging from such questions threatens to upend what geologists thought they knew about our planet.After all, it could be decades before geologists have another chance to delve physically into Panama's ancient history, Jaramillo says. "Most of the rocks we have seen in the past three years have already gone," Jaramillo says. The Isthmus of Panama plays an outsized role in ocean circulation and may be a reason that our planet currently undergoes ice ages, so the new theory could rewrite not just the history of continents and biology, but also global climate.
Science owes this research to an unlikely source: a public works project.
The Atlantic grew saltier and warmer; the Pacific grew more nutrient-rich.
Flora and fauna began traipsing between the two American continents, often extinguishing each other.
A geologist's revisionist theory pushing the formation of the Isthmus of Panama back 10 million years casts doubt on mainstream ideas of what caused the last ice age as well as the global glaciation cycle that generates the world's current climate A few years ago geologist Carlos Jaramillo stood in a man-made canyon in Panama staring at rocks he knew to be 20 million years old, and shook his head in confusion.
According to conventional geologic theory, the Panamanian Isthmus didn't emerge from the sea until just a few million years ago.
"Some entire mountains that we used to collect from two years ago are now 50 meters below water.