Exploring the Panama Canal

Hello from the Panama Canal!

I’ve been in Panama for a little less than two months, but every day we head to the field seems like a new adventure uncovering fossils. We usually head out to the field early in the morning, choose a locality, prospect the area, and we dig until lunch. This past week, however, we deviated from our normal routine to scope out some of the new cuts being made along the Canal, and to see if any looked like promising fossil-bearing localities.


Paris Morgan (left) and Jorge Moreno (right) looking from the east side of the Canal across to the new cuts.


Close up on the freshly exposed rocks on the west side of the Canal.

We explored both sides of the Canal for outcrops, and ended up finding several potential localities based on their lithology. My personal favorite was an invertebrate site full of gastropods, bivalves, oysters, and even small nummulites!


Gastropods found at one of the new localities.

We plan on adding these new sites to our PCP-PIRE database, along with each one’s formation, rock type, and a description of the fossils one can find. Hopefully they will yield new fossils that will augment our understanding of Panama’s paleoenvironment!

-Dipa Desai


Fossil Friday 11/27/15: An equid


UF 267187, a partial left mandible of a horse with DP3-M1. Photo © VP FLMNH.

Our Black Friday fossil feature is the partial mandible of an unidentified horse (order Perissodactyla, family Equidae). This fossil was discovered in El Lirio Norte of the Las Cascadas Formation and is early Miocene in age. This animal was not fully grown when it died because it still has its deciduous third and fourth premolars.

Fossil Friday 11/20/15: A beaded whelk

UF 224615, the shell of Solenosteira dalli. Photo © IVP FLMNH.

This week’s Fossil Friday post features a whelk called Solenosteira dalli. This specimen was found in the Gatún Formation and is late Miocene in age. The temporal range for this species is restricted to the late Miocene and it was found on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of Panama. This species belongs to the family Buccinidae, whose modern members use chemosensory abilities to smell and hunt prey. Solenosteira dalli was a predator and it likely used these abilities in a similar manner.

To learn more about this specimen, check out the Fossils of Panama page on it here.

Fossil Friday 11/13/15: An anthracothere astragalus


UF 244181, the astragalus of the anthracothere Arretotherium meridionale (left: anterior view; right: medial view). Photo © VP FLMNH.

This week’s Fossil Friday (the 13th) post features an anthracothere astragalus! This specimen was found in El Lirio Norte of the Las Cascadas Formation and is early Miocene in age. The astragalus is a tarsal, which is a bone found in the ankle. Astragali are very helpful in determining what kind of animal the bone might have belonged to. For example, the “double-pulley” morphology of this anthracothere astragalus is indicative of artiodactyls, so you would also be able to see this kind of morphology in the astragali of camels, deer, and other artiodactyls.

To learn more about this anthracothere, called Arretotherium meridionale, check out our previous Fossil Friday post on it here.

Fossil Friday 11/6/15: A Venus clam


UF 222942, a valve of the Venus clam Chionopsis tegulum. Photo © IVP FLMNH.

For this week’s Fossil Friday we have a Venus clam (family Veneridae) from the Gatún Formation, Chionopsis tegulum. This Venus clam can be found throughout the Early to Late Miocene (20 million years ago to 9 million years ago). It is only found on the Caribbean side of Panama and not on the Pacific side.

To find out more about this specimen, read the Fossils of Panama page on it here.


Mike Kedenburg and Gephen Sadove on the thermochronology of the Azuero Peninsula

Former PCP PIRE geology intern Gephen Sadove and current MS student Mike Kedenburg presented their research on the thermochronology of the Azuero Peninsula of Panama. Gephen and Mike have both written about their research before – Mike wrote about his research here, and Gephen explained about how she worked to process samples for research Part One; Part Two).

Gephen Sadove and Mike Kedenburg at their poster at GSA 2015.

Gephen Sadove and Mike Kedenburg at their poster at GSA 2015.

GSA 2015

PCP PIRE has a large contingent here at GSA in Baltimore, MD this year. We hit the ground running with numerous poster presentations and oral presentations.

Former PCP PIRE intern Michael Ziegler presents research from the Azuero Peninsula of Panama that he did in concert with Amanda Waite.

PhD student Victor Perez holds a 3D printed megalodon tooth in front of his research poster.

Post doc Adiël Klompmaker spoke about Octopod predation on mollusks.

Cristina Robins, Roger Portell, and Javier Luque with their poster on fossil crabs-teasing out characteristics of sexual dimorphism and ontogeny.

Gephen Sadove and Mike Kedenburg presented their research on the geochron of the Azuero Peninsula (see previous post). Great first day at GSA!