Trove of prehistoric fossils found in Panama

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U.S. and Panamanian paleontologists have discovered fossils of several species that lived in Panama more than 20 million years ago.

Trove of prehistoric fossils found in Panama
Part of a jawbone thought to belong to an extinct type of horse called ‘Anchitherium clarencei’ found by paleontologists during a project to recover fossils during the Panama Canal expansion, is displayed after a news conference in Panama City, Friday, April 26, 2013. A group of scientists and paleontologists have completed a project with the Panama Canal Authority to recover the fossils of at least ten new species of animals that inhabited the earth millions of years ago [Credit: AP/Arnulfo Franco]

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute paleontologist Bruce MacFadden says in a statement the discovery will help to better understand the biodiversity and geological formation of the Central American isthmus during the Tertiary Period.

Trove of prehistoric fossils found in Panama
Fossilized bones of a ‘Dioplotherium’ an extinct type of marine mammal found by paleontologists during a project to recover fossils during the Panama Canal expansion, is displayed after a news conference in Panama City, Friday, April 26, 2013. A group of scientists and paleontologists have completed a project with the Panama Canal Authority to recover fossils of at least ten new species of animals that inhabited the earth millions of years ago [Credit: AP/Arnulfo Franco]

The Smithsonian and the Panama Canal Authority began a joint effort five years ago to look for and dig up samples of fossils, rocks, shells and driftwood in the area of the Panama Canal.

Trove of prehistoric fossils found in Panama
A fossilized tree leaf found by paleontologists during a project to recover fossils during the Panama Canal expansion, is displayed after a news conference in Panama City, Friday, April 26, 2013. A group of scientists and paleontologists have completed a project with the Panama Canal Authority to recover fossils of at least ten new species of animals that inhabited the earth millions of years ago [Credit: AP/Arnulfo Franco]

Among other things, the scientists found pieces of teeth that belonged to an extinct giant shark and jaw fragments of a small horse that lived in the same area millions of years ago.

The discoveries were announced Friday.

Source: Associated Press [April 26, 2013]

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