Formation of the Isthmus of Panama

Formation of the Isthmus of Panama

The formation of the Isthmus of Panama stands as one of the greatest natural events of the Cenozoic, driving profound biotic transformations on land and in the oceans. Some recent studies suggest that the Isthmus formed many millions of years earlier than the widely recognized age of approximately 3 million years ago (Ma), a result … Continue reading

The other Panama Papers

The other Panama Papers

Panama has a rich and unique natural history, filled with stories of change and heaps of fascinating diversity. To keep you focused on the important, I present a few of our own ‘Panama Papers’ to download and read for yourself… What better than to name a new genus and species of sea-dwelling ‘river’ dolphin after the Isthmus … Continue reading

New opportunities in the O’Dea lab

New opportunities in the O’Dea lab

We are looking for three new interns/fellows to join the O’Dea lab. For more information download the flyers here: opportunities in the O’Dea lab Project 1 (one position). Interoceanic differences in energy flow. Position open now, send CV and cover letter to odeaa@si.edu. Project 2 (two positions). The ecological, life history and environmental differences between Holocene and … Continue reading

Isthminia panamensis: the 6 million year old marine ‘river’ dolphin

Isthminia panamensis: the 6 million year old marine ‘river’ dolphin

Four years ago Panamanian student Dioselina Vigil discovered a fossil in rocks near the small town of Piña. It turned out to be more than a bunch of bones. After careful preparation under the careful guidance of Smithsonian marine mammal paleobiologist Nicholas Pyenson and his team, the amazing fossil skull, replete with most of its teeth, was … Continue reading

Teasing apart the drivers of extinction over 500 million years

Teasing apart the drivers of extinction over 500 million years

From colleague and friend Paul Harnik’s Paleolab Blog: “How does environmental change shape the relationships between ecological traits and extinction risk? The fossil record is an invaluable resource for answering such questions. In a paper now available early online in the journal Global Change Biology, my collaborators and I show that over the last 500 … Continue reading

Research Idea Prize

Research Idea Prize

The 37th Scientific Conference Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean was held at CARMABI marine biology research station in Curaçao. Our group presented a suite of posters and talks, and on the last day we were selected to receive Carmabi’s 60th Anniversary Best Research Idea Prize. The prize is to stimulate research in Curaçao by helping them include … Continue reading

Special edition on the Isthmus of Panama

Special edition on the Isthmus of Panama

With Laurel Collins I guest edited a special edition of the Bulletin of Marine Science entitled “Environmental, ecological, and evolutionary change in seas across the Isthmus of Panama”. This volume, that has just been published, evolved from a colloquium I held in Bocas del Toro, Panama (see photo of participants). The 13 research articles expands our … Continue reading

What drives change in the seas?

What drives change in the seas?

What drives major ecological and evolutionary changes in the seas? To explore this question we documented changes in the abundance of different clams in the Caribbean over the past 11 Myr. The structure of clam communities shifted dramatically with an increase in the abundance of attached epifaunal bivalves and a decrease in infaunal bivalves. This … Continue reading

Cenozoic seawater Sr/Ca evolution

Cenozoic seawater Sr/Ca evolution

Records of seawater chemistry help constrain temporal variations in geochemical processes that impact the global carbon cycle and climate through Earth’s history. Here we reconstruct Cenozoic seawater Sr/Ca using fossil Conus and turritellid gastropods. Our favored seawater Sr/Ca scenarios point to a significant increase in the proportion of aragonite versus calcite deposition in shelf sediments … Continue reading

Corrosive concoctions

Corrosive concoctions

Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidity may deliver a deadly one-two punch to the world’s corals. Holger Anlauf placed coral larvae and young corals under four controlled culture conditions: (1) increased temperatures (2) increased acidity (3) combination of both and (4) control condition i.e. no change. Our levels of acidity and temperature are conservative estimates for … Continue reading

A review of the zooid size MART approach

A review of the zooid size MART approach

As a PhD student I devised and developed a completely new technique for investigating paleoseasonality. Reconstructions of paleoenvironments often fail to understand the importance of the mean annual range of temperature (MART) in both oceanographic and biological contexts. The new technique, called the ‘zooid size approach’ makes use of the temperature-size rule in colonial bryozoans … Continue reading

Sex in the Caribbean

Sex in the Caribbean

Evolutionary success was determined by mode of reproduction in cupuladriid bryozoans: Closure of the Panama Isthmus 3 million years ago led to a rapid reduction in primary productivity across the Caribbean. In response, cupuladriid bryozoans underwent a major transition, with evolutionary winners and losers dictated by how much sex they were having. Click on the image to … Continue reading

Hopping hotspots

Hopping hotspots

Hotspots of high species diversity are a prominent feature of modern global biodiversity patterns. Fossil and molecular evidence is starting to reveal the history of these hotspots. There have been at least three marine biodiversity hotspots during the past 50 million years. They have moved across almost half the globe, with their timing and locations … Continue reading

Form and life habit in cupuladriids

Form and life habit in cupuladriids

Since the late Mesozoic, several bryozoan groups have occupied unstable soft-sediment habitats by adopting a free-living and motile mode of life. Today, the free-living bryozoans often dominate epibenthic faunal communities in these expansive habitats, yet their biology and ecology remain poorly understood. This study examines their unique mode of life by exploring the relationship between … Continue reading

Delayed extinctions

Delayed extinctions

We discovered a two million year lag in Caribbean extinction after the environmental and ecological events responsible. This finding challenges the conventional wisdom that evolutionary cause and effect should necessarily coincide. Click on the image for the pdf of the paper. Download the Caribbean extinctions poster

Investigating palaeoseasonality

Investigating palaeoseasonality

A full understanding of any climate requires an appreciation of the amount of seasonal variation in temperature. This is important not only for present-day climatology but also for investigation of ancient environments. In this paper I present a novel approach to reveal how seasonal an ancient sea was by measuring the amount of variation in zooid … Continue reading