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Dr. James Parham excavates fossils in Chile desert

Dr. James Parham with whale fossil in Chile desert.Cal State Fullerton scientist James Parham and colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution, Universidad de Chile and other institutions have discovered complete skeletons of 6-9 million-year-old whales and other marine animals in Chile.

The team's collaborative research in what Parham described as a "spectacular whale graveyard," located in the Atacama region of Chile, was published Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the London-based scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The study, led by Smithsonian scientist Nicholas D. Pyenson, was funded by National Geographic grants to Pyenson; Parham, assistant professor of geological sciences; and their collaborators at Universidad de Chile and the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Chile.

The fossil-rich site is named "Cerro Ballena," meaning "Whale Hill" because of the nearly complete skeletons of dozens of whales and other marine animals. Cerro Ballena is the densest site in the world for individual fossil whales and other extinct marine mammals. It is similar to the extensive collection of fossils found at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado and Utah border, explained Parham.

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