News

BOA: first vertebrate to win the sweepstakes

November 12, 2012

BOA: first vertebrate to win the sweepstakes

A team of salvage paleontologists coordinated by STRI Staff Scientist Carlos Jaramillo, with support from the Panama Canal Authority, takes advantage of fresh rock outcrops created by daily dynamiting

The $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project not only creates new super-sized locks to accommodate the world's biggest ships, it also yields new knowledge about the jigsaw puzzle pieces that connect North and South America.

A team of salvage paleontologists coordinated by STRI Staff Scientist Carlos Jaramillo, with support from the Panama Canal Authority, takes advantage of fresh rock outcrops created by daily dynamiting.

Their most recent find, a fossil snake vertebra identified by Jason Head, from the University of Toronto, represents the first record of a fossil Boa in Central America. It indicates that boas were the first animals with backbones to cross from South America into North America at least 19 million years ago. At the time a wide seaway still separated the two continents. Researchers think that the boas must have been swept across the channel or carried on floating vegetation. This kind of chance event, known as “sweepstakes migration,” may account for this and other animal crossings that took place before the land bridge between continents was finally complete.

Back

PrintPrint article   ArchiveMore articles   Send your commentsComments