"We already knew about the paleontological richness of Ocucaje dating back 10-12 million years," said Rodolfo Salas, a paleontologist who was part of the discovery team. "Now we can say that the most important primitive sea mammal deposit in South America is at Ocucaje."

The whale fossils belong to a creature in the suborder Archaeoceti, meaning "ancient whales." These sea mammals share certain characteristics with their land-dwelling ancestors, most notably evidence of legs. The whale had teeth that were more like that of a terrestrial animal, as well as a cavity in the cranium that is more consistent with land mammals than sea mammals.