Current Research

Opportunities are available at UF and partnership institutions for students to learn about and to undertake projects in different aspects of paleontology, geochronology, sedimentary geology and tectonics. Short synopses of recent abstracts and peer-reviewed publications appear below; click the link for access to the full abstract:

Botany Conference 2013

INSIGHTS INTO THE MIDDLE MIOCENE CLIMATIC OPTIMUM FROM A NEOTROPICAL LEAF ASSEMBLAGE

  • Liliana Londoño, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
  • Mónica R. Carvalho, Cornell University, USA
  • Aaron R. Wood, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Andrés L. Cárdenas, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
  • Jaime Escobar, Universidad del Norte, Colombia
  • Fabiany Herrera, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Carlos Jaramillo, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
  • Dana L. Royer, Wesleyan University, USA

Exquisite preservation of leaves from the Mid-Miocene may provide an analogue to current global climate trends.
Insights into the middle Miocene Climatic Optimum from a Neotropical leaf assemblage.
Mummified Leaf Assemblage Provides Insight To Neotropical Forest Ecophysiology During The Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum.

GSA | Geological Society of America

MIOCENE DEPOSITIONAL ENVIRONMENTS OF THE SOUTHEASTERN GAILLARD CUT, PANAMA CANAL, REPUBLIC OF PANAMA

  • Pedro M. Monarrez, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA (formerly with Applied Earthworks, USA)
  • Aaron R. Wood, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Jorge Vélez-Juarbe, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Samantha Couper, University of Utah, USA
  • Erik K. Fredrickson, University of Washington, USA
  • Nicole Ridgwell, University of Colorado Boulder, USA

New stratigraphic sections exposed by the Panama Canal excavations allow a more detailed picture of the paleoenvironments of Panama during the closing of the isthmus.
Miocene Depositional Environments of The Southeastern Gaillard Cut, Panama Canal, Republic of Panama

FOSSILS OF PANAMA: DEVELOPING A BILINGUAL ONLINE HUB FOR EDUCATION AND RESEARCH RESOURCES

  • Katherine Hendy, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Austin J.W. Hendy, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Bruce J. MacFadden, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Claudia Grant, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

An overview and update on the Fossils of Panama project, an ambitious effort to fully catalog and photograph the fossils of Panama curated at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Full abstract | Fossils of Panama

THE GATUN FORMATION: A NATURAL LABORATORY FOR ANALYSIS OF NEOTROPICAL PALEOECOLOGIC AND DIVERSITY PATTERNS

  • Austin J.W. Hendy, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

An overview of the extremely fossiliferous Gatun formation of the Miocene of Panama, and an analysis of fine scale paleoecological changes.
The Gatun Formation: A Natural Laboratory for Analysis of Neotropical Paleoecologic and Diversity Patterns

NAPC | North American Paleontological Convention

THE FIRST FOSSIL RECORD OF THE GENUS ZAMIA L. (ZAMIACEAE, CYCADALES) EVIDENCED BY EPIDERMAL STRUCTURE FROM THE EOCENE OF PANAMA AND ITS COMPARISON WITH MODERN SPECIES OF ZAMIA.

  • Boglárka Erdei, Hungarian Natural History Museum, Hungary
  • Austin Hendy, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Michael Calonje, Montgomery Botanical Center Miami, USA
  • Nicolas Espinoza, Florida International University, USA

Eocene marine sediments from Panama preserved a fossil leaflet that was proved to be the first, unequivocal fossil record of the modern cycad genus Zamia based on its characteristic epidermal traits. We adopted morphometric measurements to compare cuticle morphology of the fossil with modern species of Zamia belonging to various clades of the genus. Our results corroborated a closer similarity with Caribbean Zamia species than with other Mesoamerican or South American species.

FOSSIL PYGMY SPERM WHALES (ODONTOCETI; PHYSETEROIDEA; KOGIIDAE) FROM THE LATE MIOCENE OF PANAMA AND EARLY PLIOCENE OF FLORIDA

  • Jorge Velez-Juarbe, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Carlos De Gracia, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
  • Aaron R. Wood, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Austin J.W. Hendy, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

We describe a new fossil species of pygmy sperm whale from Panama which shows that these cetaceans have been present in the Neotropics during the last 6 million years. We also describe fossil from Florida which show that at least two species of pygmy sperm whales lived in the region about 5 million years ago and formed part of one of the most diverse marine mammal assemblages of that time.

NEOTROPICAL FLORAS REVEAL THE BIOGEOGRAPHIC EVOLUTION OF PALEOCENE TO MIOCENE (60 TO 19 MA) FORESTS

  • Fabiany Herrera, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Steven R. Manchester, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Carlos Jaramillo, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama

I am investigating well-preserved fruit and seed floras ranging from ~60 to ~19 million years ago, from the Paleocene (Cerrejón & Bogotá floras), Eocene (Tonosí flora), and Miocene (Cucaracha flora) of Central and northern South America (specifically Colombia and Panama), to address the following questions: 1) Was northern South America phytogeographically isolated during the Paleogene? 2) What families first colonized the emergent land in the Panamanian arch during the late Eocene? 3) Did the Panamanian seaway act as a strong geographic barrier between the South and Central American forests in the Miocene?

RECONSTRUCTING THE EXTINCTION OF THE GIANT MEGALODON SHARK (CARCHARCOLES MEGALODON)

  • Catalina Pimiento, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Meghan Balk, University of New Mexico, USA
  • Christopher Celements, University of Sheffield, UK

Exploring the details surrounding the extinction of the shark C. megalodon, the largest known marine predator, can hopefully offer some insight into current conservation efforts of threatened modern sharks.

BODY SIZE CHANGE OF CARCHAROCLES MEGALODON THROUGH TIME IN COMPARISON WITH CONTEMPORANEOUS MARINE MEGA-FAUNA

  • Meghan A Balk, University of New Mexico, USA
  • Catalina Pimiento, University of Sheffield, UK

Body size is inherently related to a species' ecology. Understanding how body size changes in a species and throughout a community through time can reveal changes in a species ecology and relationships within a community. We, Catalina Pimiento and I, are investigating how C. megalodon's body size evolved through space and time, as well as how the body size of species in the marine community changed in the Early Pliocene, at the time of C. megalodon's extinction.

EXPANSION OF THE PANAMA CANAL AND THE RISE OF THE ISTHMUS

  • Carlos Jaramillo, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
  • Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Jonathan Bloch, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Douglas S. Jones, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Gary Morgan, New Mexico Museum of Natural History, USA

I present an overall summary of the main findings of PIRE compared with previous hypothesis on the rise of the isthmus and its consequences

THE EARLY MIOCENE PROTOCERATIDS (MAMMALIA, ARTIODACTYLA) FROM THE PANAMA CANAL BASIN

  • Aldo F. Rincon, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Jonathan I. Bloch, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Bruce J. MacFadden, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

New fossil finds from the exposures along the Panama Canal shed light on the evolution and distribution of protoceratids, an extinct group of artiodactyls with a similar appearance to a deer.

SHAPE CHANGE IN A CARIBBEAN MIOCENE BIVALVE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR CONSERVATION AND MODERN ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT

  • Sahale N. Casebolt, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Austin J.W. Hendy, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Michal Kowalewski, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

Mapping intraspecific variation of the commonly preserved bivalve Anadara dariensis can allow us to establish a baseline of diversity and changes that are independent of anthropogenic, or human, influence.

SVP | Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

NEW TURTLES (REPTILIA, TESTUDINES) FROM THE LAS CASCADAS FORMATION, PANAMA CANAL BASIN, SUGGEST LOW DIVERSITY IN THE EARLY MIOCENE (ARIKAREEAN) NEOTROPICS

  • Jason Bourque, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Aldo Fernando Rincon Burbano, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Aaron R. Wood, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Jonathan I. Bloch, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

Turtle diversity was relatively low in the Panama Canal Basin during the earliest Miocene Las Cascadas Formation (21 million years ago), but greatly increased during the Cucaracha Formation (~19 million years ago) when species diversity more than doubled.

AN EARLY MIOCENE BAT (CHIROPTERA: PHYLLOSTOMIDAE) FROM PANAMA AND MID CENOZOIC CHIROPTERAN DISPERSALS BETWEEN THE AMERICAS

  • Gary Morgan, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, USA
  • Nicholas Czaplewski, Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, USA
  • Aldo Fernando Rincon Burbano, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Aaron R. Wood, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

A new finding of a fossil bat indicates an earlier episode of the Great American Biotic Interchange, as well as a tropical North American origin for spear nosed bats.

CHRONOCLINAL BODY SIZE INCREASE OF THE EXTINCT GIANT SHARK MEGALODON (CARCHARCOLES MEGALODON)

  • Catalina Pimiento, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Meghan Balk, University of New Mexico, USA

Preliminary high-resolution analysis of teeth measurements of the giant shark Carcharcoles megalodon show an increase in the proportion of larger individuals over time, which may allow broader understanding of the evolutionary advantages and perils of large size.

NEW EARLY MIOCENE BASAL PROCYONIDS FROM PANAMA: THE OLDEST NORTH AMERICAN PROCYONID AND ORIGIN OF THE TRIBE POTOSINI (CARNIVORA, PROCYONIDAE).

  • Aldo F. Rincon Burbano, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Gary Morgan, New Mexico Museum of Natural History, USA
  • Richard Hulbert, Jr., Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Jonathan I. Bloch, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Aaron R. Wood, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

A new species of procyonid, a group that includes both kinkajous and raccoons, has been found in Panama, which indicates they evolved and diversified in primarily a tropical and subtropical forest habitat.

PARTIAL SKELETON OF A TOOTHED WHALE (ODONTOCETI, CETACEA) FROM THE MID TO LATE MIOCENE GATUN FORMATION, PANAMA

  • Jorge Vélez-Juarbe, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Aaron R. Wood, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Nicole Ridgwell, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • Jonathan I. Bloch, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA

A new species of toothed whale found in the Gatun Formation, Panama, exhibits a relatively long neck and dense ribs, which are features not typically seen in whales. These features indicate that the Gatun whale likely foraged at shallow depths, an interpretation that is consistent with a depth estimate of 25 meters for the layers in which it was discovered.

DIFFERENCES IN INFERRED FORAGING BEHAVIOR AMONG EARLY MIOCENE SPECIES OF DIPLOTHERIUM: EVIDENCE FROM A NEW FOSSIL DUGONG FROM THE PANAMA CANAL

  • Aaron R. Wood, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Jorge Vélez-Juarbe, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Jason Bourque, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Jonathan I. Bloch, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida, USA
  • Carlos Jaramillo, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama

A well-preserved skull of a new species of fossil dugong was discovered along the Panama Canal from the Culebra Formation. Characteristics of the back of the skull indicate a specialized feeding strategy that differs from closely related dugongs found along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North and South America in the fossil record. These results are important for understanding competition among fossil dugong species for dietary resources, like sea grass.