Fieldwork at Península Valdés (Chubut, Argentina) in the Puerto Madryn Formation (Late Miocene) resulted in the discovery of a well-preserved, almost fully articulated, baleen whale (Cetacea, Mysticeti). This specimen, one of the most complete balaenid skeletons known from the Neogene of Argentina and worldwide, was the focus of a taphonomic analysis employing a multidisciplinary approach, integrating taxonomic, sedimentological, stratigraphic, and ichnological analyses, with the aim of reconstructing the taphonomic processes and the paleoenvironmental conditions that controlled preservation of the specimen. The skeleton belongs to the family Balaenidae (right whales). It displays a high degree of articulation, moderate pre-burial fragmentation, and relatively high completeness. Our results suggest that after death, the balaenid suffered a brief biostratinomic phase that can be summarized in four stages: (1) death at sea, with initial decomposition and positive buoyancy of the carcass; (2) internal accumulation of putrefaction gases, re-orientation, then gas loss; (3) sinking and deposition in a ventral-up position on the sea floor of the inner shelf; and (4) lateral re-orientation of the postcranial region due to physical and biological processes. The high degree of articulation and association of the skeletal elements, and the presence of both mandibles, indicate no lateral transport on the seabed and excludes refloating of the carcass at any stage. Finally, the data indicate a low-energy shelf environment with normal marine benthic oxygenation and salinity conditions, characterized by a soft bottom and a moderate sedimentation rate. The last, combined with high bioturbation, plus scour-induced self-burial, resulted in rapid burial of the carcass.

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