Scientists solve mystery of whale graveyard

By: ABC News Email
By: ABC News Email

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Atacama, Chile Scientists believe they have solved the mystery of a massive ancient whale graveyard and they believe the huge mammals were killed off by poisonous algae.

The skeletons of at least 40 whales along with numerous other sea creatures were discovered in 2010, but why they all ended up near a coastal highway in Chile was a puzzle.

Nicholas Pyenson of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has authored a study that points blame at a toxic algae that bloomed, killed the giant mammals quickly and had them float belly up onto the beach. The whales were determined to be laying on their backs, indicating they had not beached themselves, Pyenson concluded. They also apparently washed ashore quickly before they could be scavenged by other fish, like sharks.

“These big hunks of meat stranded on a tidal flat, yet there were no terrestrial predators like a bear, nothing really larger than a dog, that could dismember the carcasses and carry the bones away,” Pyenson said.

The bones were found in an area known as Cerro Bellena, or Whale Hill.

The killer algae bloomed in the area repeatedly, killing off whales, seals, marlins and other fish that washed ashore over a period of 10,000 to 16,000 years, Pyenson said, and was believed to have taken place more than 5 million years ago.

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