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Discovery of fossil mollusks in Alaska links histories of Arctic Ocean and Isthmus of Panama

rth Atlantic oceans led him to conclude that the direction of seawater flow through the Bering Strait gateway must have changed from a southerly flow to a northerly one around 3.6 million years ago. This reversal in flow direction had been theorized by computer models of past ocean flow, and was thought to have been caused by formation of the Isthmus of Panama as a land barrier where a broad tropical seaway between North and South America had existed for millions of years.

The formation of this tropical isthmus caused drastic shifts in Northern Hemisphere ocean currents, and initiated the flow of the Gulf Stream. However, just when these changes took place and affected the Arctic Ocean was a mystery not predicted by the computer models.


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Contact: Peter West
pwest@nsf.gov
703-306-1070
National Science Foundation
6-Jun-2000


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