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The Isthmus of Panama ( es, Istmo de Panamá), also historically known as the Isthmus of Darien (), is the narrow strip of land that lies between the
Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lamè Karayib; jam, Kiaribiyan Sii; nl, Caraïbische Zee; pap, Laman Karibe) is an Americas, American Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean ...
and the
Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. ...

Pacific Ocean
, linking
North North is one of the four compass points The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydro ...

North
and
South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continent ...

South America
. It contains the country of
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several ...

Panama
and the
Panama Canal The Panama Canal ( es, Canal de Panamá, link=no) is an artificial waterway in Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a List of transcontinental countries#Nor ...

Panama Canal
. Like many
isthmus An isthmus ( or ; plural: isthmuses or isthmi; from grc, ἰσθμός, isthmós, neck) is a narrow piece of land connecting two larger areas across an expanse of water by which they are otherwise separated. A tombolo is an isthmus that consist ...

isthmus
es, it is a location of great strategic value. The isthmus is thought to have been formed around 4 million years ago, separating the
Atlantic
Atlantic
and Pacific Oceans and causing the creation of the
Gulf Stream The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension the North Atlantic Drift The North Atlantic Current (NAC), also known as North Atlantic Drift and North Atlantic Sea Movement, is a powerful warm western boundary current Boundary curren ...
. This was first suggested in 1910 by North American paleontologist
Henry Fairfield Osborn Issue with Oa bot Kendell acole editing bc name shows as Dc period leesburg va jo . And vi also pa see disruptive editor in general Henry Fairfield Osborn, Sr. (August 8, 1857 – November 6, 1935) was an American paleontologist Paleonto ...

Henry Fairfield Osborn
. He based the proposal on the fossil record of mammals in Central America. This conclusion provided a foundation for
Alfred Wegener Alfred Lothar Wegener (; ; 1 November 1880 – November 1930) was a German polar researcher, geophysicist and meteorologist. During his lifetime he was primarily known for his achievements in meteorology and as a pioneer of polar researc ...

Alfred Wegener
when he proposed the theory of
continental drift Continental drift is the hypothesis A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation An explanation is a set of statements usually constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context Context may refe ...
in 1912.


History

Vasco Núñez de Balboa Vasco may refer to: * Basque language Basque (; , ) is a language spoken by Basques and others of the Basque Country (greater region), Basque Country, a region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees in adjacent parts of Northern Spain and ...

Vasco Núñez de Balboa
heard of the South Sea from natives while sailing along the Caribbean coast. On 25 September 1513 he discovered the Pacific Ocean. In 1519 the town of Panamá was founded near a small indigenous settlement on the Pacific coast. After the discovery of
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (device), National seal , national_mott ...

Peru
, it developed into an important port of trade and became an administrative centre. In 1671 the
Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
privateer A privateer is a private person or ship that engages in maritime warfare under a commission of war. Since robbery under arms was a common aspect of seaborne trade, until the early 19th century all merchant ships carried arms. A sovereign or deleg ...
Henry Morgan Sir Henry Morgan ( cy, Harri Morgan; 1635 – 25 August 1688) was a Welsh privateer A privateer is a private person or ship that engages in maritime warfare under a commission of war. Since robbery under arms was a common aspect of seabor ...
crossed the Isthmus of Panamá from the Caribbean side and destroyed the city. The town was relocated some kilometers to the west at a small peninsula. The ruins of the old town,
Panamá Viejo Panamá Viejo (English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the W ...
, are preserved and were declared a
UNESCO World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNES ...
in 1997. Silver and gold from the
viceroyalty of Peru The Viceroyalty of Peru ( es, Virreinato del Perú, links=no) was a Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other place ...
were transported overland across the isthmus by
Spanish Silver Train{{Unreferenced, date=July 2010 The Spanish Silver Train was an improvised trail used to transport silver from Potosí, Peru across the isthmus of Panama in order to ship it to Spain via the Spanish treasure fleet. The silver was usually unloaded in ...
to Porto Bello, where
Spanish treasure fleet The Spanish treasure fleet, or West Indies Fleet es, Flota de Indias (also called silver fleet or plate fleet; from the es, label=Spanish, plata meaning "silver"), was a convoy A convoy is a group of vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehicu ...
s shipped them to
Seville Seville (; es, Sevilla, Castilian Spanish , Andalusian Spanish (with yeísmo) ) is the capital and largest city of the Spain, Spanish autonomous communities of Spain, autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. It is situate ...

Seville
and
Cádiz Cádiz (, also , ; see more below) is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the Province of Cádiz, one of eight that make up the autonomous community of Andalusia Andalusia (, ; es, Andalucía ) is the southernmost ...

Cádiz
from 1707.
Lionel Wafer 350px, Map of the Darien Scheme, drawn in part with information from Lionel Wafer. Lionel Wafer (1640–1705) was a Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language ...
spent four years between 1680 and 1684 among the Kuna or Guna Indians. Scotland tried to establish a settlement in 1698 through the
Darien scheme The Darien scheme was an unsuccessful attempt, backed largely by investors of the Kingdom of Scotland Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy * A realm ruled by: **A king, during the reign of a male monarch **A queen regnant, duri ...
. The
California Gold Rush The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) was a that began on January 24, 1848, when was found by at in . The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to from the rest of the United States and abroad. The sudden influx of gold into ...
, starting in 1849, brought a large increase in the transportation of people from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Steamships brought gold diggers from eastern US ports, who trekked across the isthmus by foot, horse, and later rail. On the Pacific side, they boarded
Pacific Mail Steamship Company The Pacific Mail Steamship Company was founded April 18, 1848, as a joint stock company under the laws of the State of New York by a group of New York City merchants. Incorporators included William H. Aspinwall, Edwin Bartlett (American consul at ...
vessels headed for
San Francisco San Francisco (; Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (dis ...

San Francisco
.
Ferdinand de Lesseps Ferdinand Marie, Count de Lesseps (; 19 November 1805 – 7 December 1894) was a French diplomat and later developer of the Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( ar, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level Mean ...

Ferdinand de Lesseps
, the man behind the
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( ar, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average level of the surface of one or more of Earth's bodies of water from which hei ...
, started a Panama Canal Company in 1880 that went bankrupt in 1889 in the
Panama scandals The Panama scandals (also known as the Panama Canal Scandal or Panama Affair) was a corruption affair that broke out in the French Third Republic The French Third Republic (french: La Troisième République, sometimes written as ) was the ...
. In 1902–1904, the United States forced
Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conv ...

Colombia
to grant independence to the Department of the Isthmus, bought the remaining assets of the Panama Canal Company, and
finished the canal
finished the canal
in 1914.


Geology

A significant body of water (referred to as the Central American Seaway) once separated the continents of North and South America, allowing the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to mix freely. Beneath the surface, two plates of the
Earth's crust Earth's crust is a thin shell on the outside of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The ...
were slowly colliding, forcing the
Cocos Plate The Cocos Plate is a young oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Central America, named for Cocos Island, which rides upon it. The Cocos Plate was created approximately 23 million years ago when the Farallon Plate b ...
to slide under the
Caribbean Plate The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, together referred to as the lithosphere. The plates are around ...
. The pressure and heat caused by this collision led to the formation of underwater
volcano A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object A planet is an astronomical body orbit In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an physical body, object, such as the trajectory of a planet a ...

volcano
es, some of which grew large enough to form
island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll (), sometimes known as a coral atoll, i ...

island
s. Meanwhile, movement of the two tectonic plates was also pushing up the sea floor, eventually forcing some areas above sea level. Over time, massive amounts of
sediment Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently sediment transport, transported by the action of wind, water, or ice or by the force of gravity acting on the particles. ...

sediment
from North and South America filled the gaps between the newly forming islands. Over millions of years, the sediment deposits added to the islands until the gap was completely filled. By no later than 4.5 million years ago, an isthmus had formed between North and South America. However, an article in ''Science'' magazine stated that
zircon Zircon ( or ) is a mineral In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chemical composition and a specific crystal structure that occurs naturally in ...

zircon
crystals in middle
Miocene The Miocene ( ) is the first geological epoch In geochronology, an epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is longer than an age (geology), age but shorter than a period (geology), period. The current epoch is the Holocene Epoch of ...
bedrock from northern Colombia indicated that by 10 million years ago, it is likely that instead of islands, a full isthmus between the North and South American continents had already formed where the Central American Seaway had been previously. Evidence also suggests that the creation of this land mass and the subsequent warm, wet weather over
northern Europe Northern Europe is the northern region of Europe. Narrower definitions may describe Northern Europe as being roughly north of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, which is about 54th parallel north, 54°N, or may be based on other geographic ...
resulted in the formation of a large
Arctic ice cap Image:Arctic Ice Thickness.gif, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA projected Arctic changes. The Arctic ice pack is the sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean and its vicinity. The Arctic ice pack undergoes a regular seasonal cycle ...
and contributed to the current ice age. That warm currents can lead to glacier formation may seem counterintuitive, but heated air flowing over the warm Gulf Stream can hold more moisture. The result is increased precipitation that contributes to snow pack. The formation of the Isthmus of Panama also played a major role in
biodiversity Biodiversity is the biological variety and Genetic variability, variability of life, life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of variation at the Genetics, genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near ...

biodiversity
on the planet. The bridge made it easier for animals and plants to migrate between the two continents. This event is known in
paleontology Paleontology (), also spelled palaeontology or palæontology, is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene epoch (geology), epoch (roughly 11,700 years before present). It includes th ...
as the
Great American Interchange The Great American Biotic Interchange (commonly abbreviated as GABI), also known as the Great American Interchange or Great American Faunal Interchange, was an important late Cenozoic The Cenozoic ( ; ) is Earth's current geological era An er ...
. For instance, in North America, the
opossum Opossums () are members of the marsupial Order (biology), order Didelphimorphia () Endemism, endemic to the Americas. The largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere, it comprises 120+ species in 19 Genus, genera. Opossums originated i ...

opossum
,
armadillo Armadillos (meaning "little armored ones" in Spanish) are New World The "New World" is a term for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas."America." ''The Oxford Companion to the English Language'' (). McArth ...

armadillo
, and
porcupine Porcupines are large rodent Rodents (from Latin , 'to gnaw') are mammals of the Order (biology), order Rodentia (), which are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. About 40% ...

porcupine
all trace back to ancestors that came across the land bridge from South America. Likewise, bears, cats, dogs, horses, llamas, and raccoons all made the trek south across the isthmus.


Biosphere

As the connecting bridge between two vast land masses, the Panamanian biosphere is filled with overlapping fauna and flora from both North and South America. There are, for example, over 978 species of birds in the isthmus area. The tropical climate also encourages a myriad of large and brightly colored species, insects, amphibians, birds, fish, and reptiles. Divided along its length by a mountain range, the isthmus's weather is generally wet on the Atlantic (Caribbean) side but has a clearer division into wet and dry seasons on the Pacific side.


See also

*
Darién Gap The Darién Gap (, , es, Tapón del Darién , ) is a geographic region between the North and South American continents within Central America Central America ( es, América Central, , ''Centroamérica'' ) is a region of the Americas ...

Darién Gap
*
Gulf of Darién , image = Map of Darién Gap-en.svg , alt = , caption = The Gulf of Darién, north of the isthmus of Darién in the Caribbean Sea , image_bathymetry = , alt_bathymetry = , caption_bathymetry = ...
*
Isthmo-Colombian Area The Isthmo-Colombian Area is defined as a cultural area encompassing those territories occupied predominantly by speakers of the Chibchan languages at the time of European contact. It includes portions of the Central American isthmus like eastern El ...
* Postage stamps and postal history of the Canal Zone


References


Citations


General sources

* * * * * Excerpt from the 1729 Knapton edition * (Original German article from 1912 with English translation from 2003.)


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Isthmus of Panama Geography of Central America
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several ...
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several ...
Landforms of Panama Natural history of Central America Regions of Central America