How the Isthmus of Panama changed the world

From STRI – Smithsonian Tropical Reserach Institute web.

The earth is not a solid or static mass. It is composed of segments — tectonic plates— that cover a shifting mantle. These plates have different movements. They crash into each other and separate, they slide and sink and emerge, forming mountain ranges such as the Andes and Rocky Mountains, oceans, major earthquakes and volcanoes, and bridges like the one that joins North and South America.

Before a large audience that far surpassed the capacity of the Tupper Center Auditorium of the Smithsonian in Panama, STRI geologist Anthony G. Coates explained how, twenty million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama began to emerge through the clashing and sliding of tectonic plates. Before this, Central America as we know it today was part of a volcanic peninsula, far from its current location.

With the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama, the planet experienced changes resulting in the current world order. For three million years, Panama has separated the oceans and joined two continents. It promoted the exchange of species between the Americas, enabling Amazonian fauna to colonize areas as far north as Mexico and creating the abundant tropical biodiversity we have today. It is responsible for the extensive development of coral reefs, initiated a new global ocean circulation pattern, contributed to the glaciation of the northern hemisphere, and changed the climate of the tropics. Because of the Isthmus, the winds that cross the Gulf Stream are warmed and Europe is spared from freezing over in the winter. It is even possible that the ancestors of the human race came down out of the trees because of climate change in Africa which was also a product of the emergence of the Isthmus.

Using videos, geological maps of the earth’s plates, sections of fossil sequences and rock-dating techniques, Coates amazed the public and students present with his description of how Panama’s geological past was reconstructed, as part of the celebrations commemorating a Century of Smithsonian Science in Panama, on Wednesday, April 27. The next Centennial talk, by Hermógenes Fernández-Marín, will be be held on May 25.

New Birding Tour in Bocas del Toro

Tranquilo Bay is ready to announce the addition of guided birding trips on the Western Caribbean Slope to their excursions.

Tranquilo Bay has been birding the Western Caribbean Slope for many years and in 2008 hired two full time biologist, that combined have 16 years of experience working in the Province of Bocas del Toro.
birding tours panama
In western Panama the Caribbean Slope of the Talamanca mountain range, Tranquilo Bay’s back yard, plunges some 11,000 feet from the high alpine forest of La Amistad National Park into the lowland rainforests bordering the Caribbean Sea, in a span of less than 40 miles. Within the areas we explore from our comfortable facility the altitude ranges from 7,000 feet to sea level in a zone where nearly 500 species of birds can be found. This extreme biodiversity and high level of endemic species is due to abrupt changes in altitudinal zones and extreme geographic features creating many distinct ecosystems, as well as, migratory corridors.

Tranquilo Bay is located on 100 pristine acres, adjacent to Bastimentos National Marine Park, amongst the convergence of 3 distinct ecosystems. This creates an extremely diverse and unique wildlife observation site where flora and fauna overlap from separate worlds increasing diversity. In a week it is possible to identify over 100 species of birds without leaving the property. There are several elevated porches throughout the facility, creating an incredible eye-level view. While birding onsite you might also encounter white-faced capuchin monkeys, night monkeys, two and three toed sloths, iguanas, caiman, butterflies, a variety of frogs and lizards, and within the canopy a collage of rain forest hardwood and fruit trees, lianas, mangroves, ferns, orchids and cycads.

Some common Birds Of Isla Bastimentos (Common favorites)
Gold Collared Manakin, Three Wattled Bell Bird, Violet Crowned Wood Nymph, Red Lored Amazon Parrots (by the hundreds), Green Ibis, White-Crowned Pigeon, Blue Dacnis, White Hawk, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Green Honeycreeper, Lineated Woodpecker among others.

EcoCircuitos Panama is proud to offer birding tours to Bocas del Toro with a great team of guides. For more information, contact us at or