Whales Desert – Whales have been found in the Atacama region from more than 2 million years ago where scientists say scores swam to congregate off the Pacific Coast of South America before mysteriously meeting their end. It is an odd finding, one that researchers don’t understand.
They were found near a desert hill more than a half a mile from the surf, where researchers have begun to unearth one of the world’s best-preserved graveyards of prehistoric whales.
Chilean scientists together with researchers from the Smithsonian Institution are studying how these whales, many of them the size of buses, wound up in the same corner of the Atacama Desert.
“That’s the top question,” said Mario Suarez, director of the Paleontological Museum in the nearby town of Caldera, about 440 miles north of Santiago, the Chilean capital.
Experts say other groups of prehistoric whales have been found together in Peru and Egypt, but the Chilean fossils stand out for their staggering number and beautifully preserved bones. More than 75 whales have been discovered so far – including more than 20 perfectly intact skeletons.
They provide a snapshot of sea life at the time, and even include what might have been a family group: two adult whales with a juvenile between them.
“I think they died more or less at the same time,” said Nicholas Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Pyenson and Suarez are jointly leading the research.