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Pisco formation

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The Pisco formation is a fossil site in Peru that contains some 346 well preserved whales and some other fossil animals. It has an area of 1.5-km and is 80-m thick. Using radiometric dating methods, the site gave an age of 10-12 million years old. It mainly consists of a sedimentary rock called diatomite. This site, which was brought to attention by Art Chadwick, Leonard Brand, Raúl Esperante, and Poma, is one of the world's best examples of a formation being created by Noah's flood.

Fossil preservation

The preservation of the whale fossils is amazing. Of the hundreds of whale fossils, 145 are complete fossils. There are no signs of what one would expect from sea floor decay (wormholes, barnacle encrustations, and a utter lack of any sign of bioturbation). Brand et al point out that when a marine creature dies, scavengers quickly devour the corpse. Furthermore, the baleen of some whales, a part rarely found, is preserved. As a result, Brand et al claim that this site is clearly an example of rapid burial.[1]

Observations of modern whale carcasses on the seafloor indicate that baleen does not remain long within the mouth of a dead whale. This is due to the non-bony nature of baleen and the fact that the plates are not rooted in the upper mandible but just glued to it. Sedimentological and taphonomic features suggest that the exceptional occurrence of the baleen apparatus of these fossil is the result of very rapid burial of the carcasses, which likely occurred after most of the soft tissue decayed but before baleen was removed.
[2]

Also in support of rapid burial is the fact that the amount of whales facing up and the amount facing down are about equal. This shows a picture of a highly chaotic environment.[3]

Interpretation

Since there are signs of sharks eating away at the whale corpse, there is clear evidence that the whale were not merely deposited in preexisting diatomite. The diatomite was formed at the same time whales died. Brand et al conclude, after debunking other interpretations, that the formation is a result of a massive diatom bloom. There is some evidence of volcanism and this would supply to essential nutrient to produce a diatom bloom. This, in turn, killed the whales because blooms poison the water.

Implications

The Pisco formation is an amazing site. The rapid burial of the whales and preservation of their baleen depict a story of whales perishing in a diatom bloom in the late flood period. However, there is more to be drawn from the fossil site.

Mixed environment

Though the Flood would produce a general pattern in the fossil record, due to fossil sorting (e.g. hydrological sorting and ecological zonation), exceptions are bound to occur. Whales are not the only creatures found at the Pisco formation. The others strangely include a few sloths and some penguins. This is a clear example of creatures that live in completely different ecologies being buried at the same site.

Chalk "problem"

Some anti-creationists assert that flood geology cannot account for chalk layers, but creationist point out that chalk formation is highly episodic. Snelling showed that massive blooms of foraminifera and coccolithophores could create site like the White Hills of Dover. [4]

Diatoms are very similar to coccolithophores and foraminifera. Diatomite, like chalk, is due to the build of microscopic shells. Thus the Pisco formation is proof for Snelling's argument for episodic formation.

References

  • Brand, L. R., R. Esperante, A. V. Chadwick, O. Poma, and M. Alomia. 2004. Fossil whale preservation implies high diatom accumulation rate in the Miocene-Pliocene Pisco Formation of Peru. Geology, 32:165-168.
  • Carvajal C, Poma O, Chadwick A, Brand L. 2000. Sedimentology and paleoenvironment of whale bearing sediments of the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Peru. Geological Society of America Abstracts With Programs 32(7):A10.
  • Esperante-Caamano R, Brand LR, Chadwick AV, Poma O. 1999. Taphonomy of whales in the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Western Peru. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 31(7):A466.
  • Esperante-Caamano, Raul, Leonard Brand, Arthur Chadwick, and Fernando DeLucchi. 2000. Fossil Whales Of The Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Peru: Stratigraphy, Distribution, And Taphonomy. Geological Society of America. Abstracts with Program 32:A499.
  • ESPERANTE, Raúl. 2006. EXCEPTIONAL OCCURRENCE OF FOSSIL BALEEN IN THE MIOCENE/PLIOCENE PISCO FORMATION, PERU. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 38, No. 7, p. 64
  • Esperante, R., Brand, L., Chadwick, A. and Poma, O., Taphonomy of fossil whales in the diatomaceous sediments of the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Peru; in: De Renzi, J. et al. (Eds.), Current Topics on Taphonomy and Fossilization, Ajuntament de Valencia, International Conference, Valencia, Spain, pp. 337–343, 2002.