Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Whale Graveyard

Talking about fossils yesterday reminded me of an article I saw fairly recently. A large graveyard filled with fossilized marine life was found in Chile in four distinct layers, suggesting four separate mass strandings between 6 and 9 million years ago. Researchers uncovering the bones are speculating that the mass die-offs occurred due to harmful algal blooms that poisoned many marine species and caused them to die and wash ashore on this tidal flat. Orange splotches found on rocks near the bones where examined and found to be fossilized organisms similar to dinoflagellates, which are known to produce red tides today, suggesting a algal bloom similar to a red tide occurred and lead to the mass strandings. They found several dozen baleen whales, aquatic sloths, walrus-like toothed whales, 2 different types of phocid seals, and an extinct species of sperm whale. (Journal: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1781/20133316.full)


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