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 and the , linking and . It contains the country of and the . Like many es, it is a location of great strategic value. The isthmus is thought to have been formed around 4 million years ago, separating the and Pacific Oceans and causing the creation of the . This was first suggested in 1910 by North American paleontologist . He based the proposal on the fossil record of mammals in Central America. This conclusion provided a foundation for when he proposed the theory of in 1912.


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 , it developed into an important port of trade and became an administrative centre. In 1671 the 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, , are preserved and were declared a in 1997. Silver and gold from the were transported overland across the isthmus by to , where s shipped them to and from 1707. spent four years between 1680 and 1684 among the Kuna or . Scotland tried to establish a settlement in 1698 through the . The , 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 vessels headed for . , the man behind the , started a Panama Canal Company in 1880 that went bankrupt in 1889 in the . In 1902–1904, the United States forced to grant independence to the , bought the remaining assets of the Panama Canal Company, and in 1914.


A significant body of water (referred to as the ) 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 s of the were slowly colliding, forcing the to slide under the . The pressure and heat caused by this collision led to the formation of underwater es, some of which grew large enough to form 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 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 stated that crystals in middle 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 had been previously. Evidence also suggests that the creation of this land mass and the subsequent warm, wet weather over resulted in the formation of a large and contributed to the . 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 on the planet. The bridge made it easier for animals and plants to migrate between the two continents. This event is known in as the . For instance, in North America, the , , and 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.


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

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General sources

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

External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Isthmus of Panama Regions of Central America