This is my Panama!
But, 20 million years ago there WAS no Panama. The oceans covered what today is Panama. The gap between the continents allowed waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to flow freely. There was no connection between the North and South American continents. Beneath the surface, two plates of the Earth’s crust were slowly colliding into one another, forcing the Pacific Plate to slide slowly under the Caribbean Plate. The pressure and heat caused by this collision led to the formation of underwater volcanoes.
These underwater or submarine volcanoes continued to erupt as the tectonic plates moved until, somewhere around 15 million years ago, the volcanoes pushed through the surface and islands began to emerge. Over millions more years ocean sediment (sand, mud and soil) began building up around the volcanic islands and eventually filled in the space between the islands. So that by about By about 3 million years ago, an isthmus had formed between North and South America.
Scientists believe the formation of the Isthmus of Panama is one of the most important geologic events to happen on Earth in the last 60 million years.
So the Isthmus of Panama became the Bridge of Life . . . Linking the continents together. And as a result the formation of the Isthmus of Panama also played a major role in biodiversity on our world. The bridge made it easier for animals and plants to migrate between the continents.
In North America the opossum, armadillo, and porcupine all trace back to ancestors that came across the land bridge from South America and ancestors of bears, cats, dogs, horses, llamas, and raccoons all made the trek TO South America across the isthmus.
And it is in celebration of this unique and important role of Panama as the Bridge of Life that a new museum right on the shore of the Panama Canal, It is called PANAMA; BRIDGE OF LIFE: THE MUSEUM OF BIODIVERSITY. It was designed by Frank Gehry who also designed the Experience Music project in Seattle, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
Panama, from its very inception, has been all about change and adapting to change. Its location and its ability to adapt has enabled Panama to become “The Crossroads of The World.”