Isthmus of Panama
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Isthmus of Panama

December 31, 2003
Twenty million years ago ocean covered the area where Panama is today. There was a gap between the continents of North and South America through which the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans flowed freely. Beneath the surface, two plates of the Earth’s crust were slowly colliding into one another, forcing the Pacific Plate to slide slowly under the Caribbean Plate. Over time, massive amounts of sediment (sand, soil, and mud) were peeled away from North and South America by strong ocean currents and fed through the gaps between the newly forming islands. Little by little, over millions of years, the sediment deposits added to the islands until the gaps were completely filled. By about 3 million years ago, an isthmus had formed between North and South America. (An isthmus is a narrow strip of land, with water on either side, that connects two larger bodies of land.) This is an SRTM image.

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