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Movement of the earth’s crust over millions of years have drastically changed the geography of the planet such that what is land now was once the seabed and where stands a mountain today was once a vast ocean. It’s not uncommon, hence, to find whale fossils and those of ancient marine animals high and dry up on mountaintops and in the middle of deserts. Whales also wash ashore on beaches, get stranded and die. The flesh rot away leaving a skeleton on the beach. The beaches of Falkland Islands, for example, are littered with whale bones. Aside from ancient fossils and the occasional stranded whale, mass killing of whales during the 19th and early 20th centuries have left numerous “whale graveyards” around the world. Here are five onshore sites where you can find whale bones.

Atacama Desert, Chile

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Chilean and Smithsonian paleontologists study several fossil whale skeletons at Cerro Ballena, next to the Pan-American Highway in Atacama Region, Chile, in 2011. Photo credit: Adam Metallo / Smithsonian Institution

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