|Bruce MacFadden, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of|
Natural History and principal investigator on the Panama Canal Project.
The New World Tropics have extraordinarily high biodiversity that is threatened by global climate change, human impacts and extinction. Little is known about when this biodiversity originated and how it evolved. During the initial excavations for the Panama Canal a century ago, the Smithsonian Institution made natural history and geological collections that documented modern and ancient biodiversity in the NWT.
In 2008 Panama initiated a decade-long, $7 billion project to expand the canal. This expansion is providing a once-in-a-century opportunity to access new rock outcrops rich in fossil diversity. The project is expanding researchers’ understanding of global changes that occurred when the Isthmus of Panama formed, creating a land bridge between North America and South America.
Fact: The Panama Canal expansion project began in 2007 and is estimated to be completed by 2015 at a cost of $5.3 billion. The expansion project will more than double the canal's capacity, enabling it to accommodate ships that are too large to traverse the existing canal. The United States and China are the top users of the canal.