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Whales in the desert sands of Chile

21 December 2011

The discovery of 80 whales buried in the Atacama desert of northern Chile during the building of a highway has reappeared as a post at http://creation.com/chile-desert-whale-fossils#Ref9 – sent in by SIS member William Thompson of Massachusetts (but see also www.io9.com/5861723/what-are-fossilised-remains-of-more-than-80-whales-d… and www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063973/Whales-desert-Prehistoric-bones… ). Look at all three sites as there are some wonderful pictures.

The excavation of a bone bed near the west coast of northern Chile, around a km away from the beach, has unearthed around 80 baleen whales – 20 of which are complete. Various other kinds of marine animals were found such as an extinct species of dolphin and a sperm whale. Some of the baleen whales were so close together they overlapped with each other. The deposit is confined, it is thought, to a sandstone ridge about 20m wide and 240m in length. Large pebbles are found at the base of the outcrop but there are also smaller pebbles and various shells embedded in the sandy deposit. As usual, the slow process of geological sedimentation is quoted by experts – and the deposit is assigned a date of millions of years ago, between 2 and 7 million years to be exact. The timescale is of course governed by academic geologists but interestingly, it dates back to the Pliocene era. Before the adoption of the Ice Ages as a geological fact, which required the insertion of the Pleistocene era to accommodate them, the Pliocene was much closer to present day than now – but these whales were apparently overwhelmed in what might have been a huge tsunami wave, or some kind of catastrophic event. More details may emerge as the excavation proceeds.

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