a microbial tale told in two oceans
Three million years ago an experiment began
it connected two continents
it divided one ocean.
Learn more about this website & the grant that supports the work—Divergence of Marine Symbiosis After the Rise of the Isthmus of Panama.
Some three million years ago, a spectacular natural experiment began when the Isthmus of Panama finally closed, a process that began several million years earlier.
For terrestrial organisms, the formation of the Isthmus created a land bridge that connected North & South America, allowing for massive migrations of plants & animals.
For marine organisms, the story unfolded quite differently. Where once a single tropical ocean flowed, the land bridge became a marine barrier, altering ocean currents & causing different physicochemical environments to emerge.
These radically different conditions are reflected in the resident benthic communities. Many species went locally extinct after the Isthmus closed (e.g., coral, fish, bivalves) and gene flow ceased.
Yet pairs of closely related sister species (geminates) thrive on either side today. Some of these species pairs are so similar that morphology alone is not enough to tell them apart.
How did the close of the Isthmus affect the evolution of microorganisms, the structure of microbial communities, and the function of host-associated microbiomes?
In this project, we make use of contrasting (a) geographic regions, (b) benthic habitats, (c) environmental gradients, and (d) host biology, to understand the evolutionary divergence of marine microbiomes in changing environments & their functional significance in different systems. We also look more generally at microbial communities from a variety of habitats and envrionments around Panama and beyond. There are many great reviews about the effects the rise of the Isthmus of Panama had on the evolution of terrestrial and marine organisms, including Lessios (2008), Leigh et. al. (2013), and O’Dea et al. (2016).
We also look more generally at microbial communities from a variety of habitats and envrionments around Panama and beyond.
There are many great reviews about the effects the rise of the Isthmus of Panama had on the evolution of terrestrial and marine organisms, including Lessios (2008), Leigh et. al. (2013), and O’Dea et al. (2016).
Each card contains a geminate pair; top panels (peach) are Western Atlantic species and bottom panels (royal blue) are Eastern Pacific species.
Click here to see a gallery of all geminates.
Use the cards to access individual project pages or Click here to see a list of projects. On each project page you will find links to the project site, raw data and data products, code, & associated publications
By people involved in the Istmobiome Project
During this project we created, organized, & hosted two marine microbiome workshops in Panama. The objective was to bring experts from various fields together to discuss the evolutionary ecology and function of host-microbiomes, to synthesize discussions into whitepapers, & to build cross-disciplinary collaborations.
Fishes & Invertebrates from Panama’s Caribbean & Pacific Coasts
A gallery of talks & presentations created by members of the Istmobiome Project
Stories about our science.
Study finds fish have diverse, distinct gut microbiomes. Photo by José Alejandro Alvarez.
A short documentary piece about Isla Coiba by one of our students. Photo by Toa Heftiba.
Complex systems, Microbiomes, Coral reefs, Ants, Panama, Hydrothermal vents, Archaeology, Knots
Host-microbe interactions, Host-microbe evolution, Host-microbes in ecosystem function & stability
Biodiversity, Symbiosis, Shrimp, Trophic ecology, Microbes, Coral reefs, Tropical fish, Mangroves
Microbiology, Bacteriology, Next-generation sequencing, Bacterial genomics, Genome assembly