Americas’ hookup not so ancient after all | Science News

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Americas’ hookup not so ancient after all

Latest volley in Panama land bridge debate pegs age at 3 million years

2:14pm, August 17, 2016
Isthmus of Panama

CONTENTIOUS CONNECTION  The age of the narrow strip of land that links North and South America is at the center of a debate among scientists. The rocky coasts of the Isthmus of Panama (shown) alter ocean currents and the world’s climate.

A debate over when the gap between North and South America closed has opened a rift in the scientific community.

Analyzing existing data from ancient rocks, fossils and genetic studies, a group of researchers has assembled a defense of the conventional view that the Isthmus of Panama formed around 3 million years ago. That work rebuts papers published last year that concluded that the continental connection started millions of years earlier (SN: 5/2/15, p. 10). The authors of the new paper, published August 17 in Science Advances, caution against the “uncritical acceptance” of the older formation date.

“Those of us who are advocating the traditional view are in danger of being seen as old fuddy-duddy conservatives,” says study coauthor Harilaos Lessios, a molecular

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