Scientists have uncovered what is thought to be the world’s largest whale graveyard after stumbling across dozens of skeletons of fossilised baleen whales whilst carrying out construction works on the Pan-American highway in Chile.
Although the area, known as Cerro Ballena or “whale hill”, is famed locally for its abundance of hidden and fossilised skeletons, the newly discovered collection of fossils, some in perfect condition, make this part of the Atacama region in Chile world-famous.
Having lain undisturbed for between six and nine million years, scientists believe that the whales all ended up on “whale hill” as a result of four separate mass stranding over a period of 10,000 years. The fossilised remains included skeletons of an extinct species of sperm whale, a walrus-toothed whale and an aquatic sloth however researchers believe that this discovery is just the tip of the iceberg and that many more remain hidden awaiting discovery.
One of the palaeontologists noted “we managed to sample all the superstars of the fossil marine-mammal world in south America in the Late Miocene. Just an incredibly dense accumulation of species.” This bodes for exciting times in marine mammal science as our knowledge of extinct species and cetacean evolution is about to be radically expanded.