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Prehistoric whales exposed in Chilean fossil bed
A prehistoric whale fossil lays in the Atacama desert near Copiapo, Chile. More than 2 million years ago, scores of whales congregating off the Pacific Coast of South America mysteriously met their end. Maybe they became disoriented and beached themselves. Maybe they were trapped in a lagoon by a landslide or a ferocious storm. Maybe they died there over a period of a few millennia. But somehow, they ended up right next to one another, many just several yards (meters) apart, entombed over the ages as the shallow sea floor was driven upward by geologic forces and transformed into the driest place on the planet. Today, the whales have emerged again atop a desert hill more than half a mile (a kilometer) from the surf, where researchers have begun to unearth one of the world's best-preserved graveyards of prehistoric whales. AP Photo/Museo Paleontologico de Caldera.
SANTIAGO (AP).- Scientists from Chile and the Smithsonian Institution have been working to protect a huge collection of whale fossils found in the Atacama desert.

Those involved in the project say about 80 whales have been preserved in sedimentary rock, and that many of the fossils are completely preserved, including a family group that appears to be a mother, father and baby whale.

The area outside the town of Bahia Inglesa has long been called "Whale Hill" by locals, and was about to be paved over in a coastal highway expansion until paleontologist Mario Suarez persuaded his government to recover the bones first.

The government now plans to build a new museum to house what appears to be an amazing collection.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.



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Prehistoric whales exposed in Chilean fossil bed

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