Whale Fossils Found in Chile's Atacama Desert

Between 7 million and 2 million years ago dozens of whales came to an untimely end all in one place. They appear to have died in small groups. The reason why is not clear. Maybe storms drove them there, they were trapped in a landslide or caught in a lagoon.

Over time, the shallow area has been pushed up by geological change. Now they are located in the driest place on Earth still within a kilometer of the surf. But this is the Atacama Desert.

Chilean scientists are asking why whales die in large groups in far flung places such as Chile, Peru and Egypt. Seventy five skeletons have been found in Chile so far, 20 of them complete examples. Old and young whales lay alongside each other in an area of 5,000 square meters.

They are mostly baleen whales. A rare, extinct walrus-like dolphin has also been found there. Most scenarios of the wales' death involve single incidents, a storm or landslide trapping them in a lagoon. However, it is more likely that a "natural" trap of some kind caused the whales to die over a long period.
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