We wish you a merry Isthmus

One thing that has sparked the curiosity of many- why is there such an incredible diversity of plants and animals in Panama? Today we toured the Museo de la Biodiversidad to investigate further. Turns out, the Isthmus of Panama has not always been in existence- in fact, it was formed out of volcanos just over 20 million years ago. That may seem like a long time ago, but compared to the entire history of the earth, Panama’s existence is a mere blip on the radar. Heck, Panama didn’t even get to experience the Cretaceous period. Yet, Panama’s formation is a key to explaining the biodiversity we see today.
Without Panama, there is no physical land bridge between North and South America. Upon the joining of the Americas, many species now had the capability to migrate that they hadn’t had before. For instance, marsupials had never appeared on North America until the formation of Panama. So now we have two continents’ worth of species interacting with each other for the first time. Second, the Isthmus also acts as a barrier for migration between the Pacific and the Caribbean. So, we now also have marine organisms that were once united being forced to separate into two environments. In turn, we have two species sets becoming more and more different from each other. Combine these factors with the fact that Panama is in a very unvaried environment temperature-wise, and we get the immense biodiversity we see today.
Not were these past couple days a learning experience biology-wise, but also a learning experience culture-wise. Yesterday, we got the chance to explore the city and catch some authentic dancing at the Las Tinajas restaurant. Today, we got to explore the Casca Viejo neighborhood. If you ever find yourself there, I’d recommend checking out the Santa Rita restaurant- but don’t expect the food to be cheap there. Also, if you do go to Panama, bring a poncho. Always. We found that out the hard way after lunch.

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