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Earth Science

Find Along Chilean Highway Suggests Ancient Mass Stranding of Whales 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-at-the-bones dept.
sciencehabit writes "In 2010, workers widening a remote stretch of highway near the northwestern coast of Chile uncovered a trove of fossils, including the skeletons of at least 30 large baleen whales. The fossils—which may be up to 9 million years old—are the first definitive examples of ancient mass strandings of whales, according to a new study. The work also fingers a possible culprit."
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Find Along Chilean Highway Suggests Ancient Mass Stranding of Whales

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  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:20PM (#46354019)
    And I had to read a good ways down through TFA to get to the teaser, including the second paragraph, where a marine biologist is quoted as saying, "This is an awesome snapshot of deep time."

    You're welcome.

  • by RockDoctor (15477) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @05:20AM (#46355373) Journal
    'Oceanic algal bloom' is a credible proposition (though there wasn't any of the palynological or micropalaeontological evidence that one could reasonably have hoped for, and there is evidence of fairly active current movement, which doesn't really help an algal bloom hypothesis). But volcanic gas clouds (e.g. a sulphide-rich ignimbrite projecting out into the bay) is also credible.

    At this time, the cause of death isn't clear, and there are multiple credible possibilities.

  • by RockDoctor (15477) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @05:33AM (#46355421) Journal
    If you RTFP [royalsocie...ishing.org] (it is Open Access ; use it, or lose it!) you'll find that the original researchers don't take that paradigm. They're not at all clear about why the whales died, and think that many of the died and hit the seabed in depths of tens to a hundred or so metres (various lines of evidence : sediment patterns, levels of seabed life ; nearby unambiguous shoreline deposits ; constraints on the angle of slope of the seabed for sediment stability). Though parts of the sequence of beds in which the whales were found were definitely emergent (above sea level) at times, that's not considered the case for the particular beds (plural ! They represent thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years of repeated events.) in which the whale fossils have been found.

    TFP isn't confused. The coverage by a journalist working for Science Magazine may be. (I RTFP a few days ago, and promoted it to several geological discussion lists.)

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