Saturday, March 16, 2013

Return to Panama

It has already been nearly two years since the first time I came to Panama as part of a team led by Nick Pyenson and Aaron O’Dea to collect a fossil odontocete. Now I’m back in this lovely country as part of my postdoctoral research in the Florida Museum of Natural History PCP-PIRE program. This is part of a large collaborative project with several institutions in Panama and in the US, including the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).
A view of the sky from the STRI facilities in Ancón, before we headed out to the field.

Part of what I’ll be doing is to collect fossils and stratigraphic data from outcrops along the Panama Canal*, as well as other sites in the country. The expansion of the canal has made available a number of new cuts, which offer new information on the stratigraphy, flora and fauna and formation of the Isthmus of Panama. Even though I’ll be more focused on studying the marine vertebrate fauna, the terrestrial fauna is very interesting so I will be helping with those as well.
Outcrop of the Cucaracha Formation along the Panama Canal.

As soon as the second day I was here we (a team of interns led by my senior cohort Aaron Wood and Pedro Monarrez) set out to the field. We visited a locality of the early Miocene Cucaracha Formation where a series of fluvial deposits are exposed. In addition to the interesting geology at this locality, we found several fossils of terrestrial vertebrates as well as crocs towards the top of the section. So much that we return on the next day to look for more.
My first find, a protoceratid molar. These were part of a deer-like group of artiodactyls, best known for having horn(s) sticking out of their snouts. 

Stay tuned for more posts, as I’ll be spending a lot of time here.

*Access to this and all other paleontological localities along the canal brought to you thanks to the courtesy of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

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