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27 February 2014

Chile’s Massive Fossil Whale Graveyard Explained

A graveyard of whales found beside the Pan-American Highway in Chile is one of the most astonishing fossil discoveries made in recent years.

And now scientists think they can explain how so many whales came to be there. It’s thought the whale’s prey ate the algae and became poisonous, then when the whales ate the prey they died pretty quickly.

Researchers believe the shape of the coastline at that time funnelled the dead whales into an area where they were lifted on to sand flats just above high tide. They were then preserved there for millions of years.  It is likely that there were four different groups of whales that ended up there over time.

The scientists also discovered bones of sharks, dolphins and seals during building work to widen the highway in Chile in 2011. The team of experts had just two weeks to finish their excavations before work started on the road again. A whale skeleton is pretty big, so they were amazed when they found skeletons of 15 whales in just 15 days. The fossil remains are thought to have been there for more than 5 million years. Most of the skeletons are almost complete which gives researchers a lot of information about the history of the creatures and the conditions in the sea.

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