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Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 5;9(1):1417. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37790-2.

Volcanic contribution to emergence of Central Panama in the Early Miocene.

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School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Ancón, Panama City, Panama.
Ingineering Division, Panama Canal Authority, Corozal Oeste, Panama City, Panama.
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.
Instituto de Geociencias, University of Panama, Colina Universidad de Panamá, Panama City, Panama.
Independant consulting geologist, Punta Pacífica, Panama City, Panama.


Formation of the Panama Isthmus, that had global oceanographic and biotic effects in the Neogene, is generally associated with tectonic uplift during collision of the Panama volcanic arc with South America. However, new field, geochemical and geochronological data from the Culebra Cut of the Panama Canal suggest that volcanism also contributed to the Isthmus emergence in the Early Miocene. This volcanism is recorded in a newly-recognised Central Panama volcanic field that includes several phases of development. Early activity of this field along the Panama Canal was associated with proximal effusive to explosive felsic products during formation of subaerial stratovolcanoes and possible domes ca. 21 Ma. This was followed by a period of marine transgression ca. 21-18 Ma, with more distal volcanism documented by tuffs that deposited in marine to terrestrial environments. Finally, proximal mafic volcanism formed tephra cones in a monogenetic field ca. 18(-?) Ma. This was associated with phreatomagmatic processes in a coastal environment, with remarkable kilometre-wide subvolcanic peperitic intrusions. We propose based on these observations that formation of the Central Panama volcanic field was critical in shaping regional topography, and that this could have actively contributed to obstruction and closure of an interoceanic strait in Central Panama.

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