The Panama Paleontology Project (PPP)

The PPP was begun in 1986 by Jeremy Jackson and Anthony Coates of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) as a multidisciplinary project studying the nature, timing, and magnitude of evolutionary events associated with closure of the isthmus of Panama. Since the project began, its aims have expanded to encompass the general biotic history of tropical America and how it has been influenced by environmental change. PPP collecting is ongoing and involves one or more trips per year to key Miocene to Recent sequences in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The actual collecting process involves a unique team effort. Detailed columns are constructed for each sequence (A.G. Coates); sampling of microfossils (L.S. Collins) and macrofossils (P. Jung, J.B.C. Jackson, A.F. Budd) is standardized so as to minimize bias; and geologic age dates are obtained by integrating data on planktic foraminifera (W.A. Berggren, Woods Hole), nannofossils (M.P. Aubry, Montpellier, France), paleomagnetics (D.F. McNeill, U. Miami), and strontium isotopes (coordinated by D.F. McNeill). Sampling and locality information are entered in a database (managed by L.S. Collins at Florida International University).  These data include more than 500,000 specimens since 1992. After collection, samples are sent from STRI to designated PPP systematists and research teams for identification including: Aguilera (fish), Budd (zooxanthellate corals), Cairns (azooxanthellate corals), Cheetham & Jackson (bryozoans), Collins (benthic foraminifera), Cronin (ostracodes), and Jung and Todd (molluscs). After the specimens are prepared and identified, more detailed studies of the systematics and evolution of selected taxa are conducted by individual PPP researchers. After study, all micro- and macrofossils except molluscs and fish are deposited at the NMNH; mollusc and fish specimens are deposited at the NMB. For details about the current status of collections and specimens, see the homepage for each individual taxonomic group.

The PPP collections have served as the basis for two volumes:
(1) Jackson, J.B.C., A.F. Budd & A.G. Coates, eds. 1996. Evolution and Environment in Tropical America. Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 425pp.

(2) Collins, L.S. & A.G. Coates, eds. 1999. A Paleobiotic Survey of Caribbean Faunas from the Neogene of the Isthmus of Panama. Bulletins of American Paleontology, no. 357, 351pp.

The PPP maintains a contribution series of publications based on collections made by the PPP.

Last updated on August 2006 -afb.

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