Raúl Esperante

PhD, Paleontology

Research Interests

As geologist and paleontologist my interests relate to the history of sedimentary basins and the fossils within the rocks I am currently studying the sedimentary layers of the Pisco Basin in southern Peru where a thick succession of strata was deposited in a mostly shallow marine environment. There, I have several lines of research

  • Many of the layers contain well preserved fossils of marine mammals (baleen whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions), sharks, fish, and invertebrates. I am studying the fossilization processes that led to preservation of the fossils.
  • The marine mammal fossils are very abundant. It is the largest known accumulation of fossil marine mammals in the world. One of my goals is to explain why so many specimens died, were buried and became preserved in the rocks.
  • I am studying the lithology, and stratigraphy of the succession of layers to understand the sequence of events and processes that led to the accumulation of the sediments in the ancient marine environment.
  • I am paying special attention to the ichnofossils (trace fossils) in the layers, as they provide important insights on the ancient conditions of the marine environment. This research is carried out in collaboration with other researchers and students.

Research Keywords

Pisco Formation, Pisco Basin, Fossil Whales, Paleontology, Taphonomy, Fossilization, Baleen, Ichnology, Fossil Marine Mammals, fossil cetaceans, whale fossils


Doctor in Paleontology: Loma Linda University, California

Bachelors in Biology: Universidad de Valencia, Spain


Esperante, R., Geisse, B., Ospino, M., Poma, O. (2018) Distribution and taphonomic characteristics of marine mammals in Cerro Hueco la Zorra, Miocene, Pisco Formation, Peru. 5th International Palaeontological Congress, Paris, Abstact book.

Poma, O., Esperante, R., Geisse, B., Ospino, M., Echevarría, M., Zegarra, Z. (2018) Preservation of marine mammals in pebble conglomerates, Miocene Pisco Formation, Peru, 5th International Palaeontological Congress, Paris, Abstact book.

Esperante, R., and O. Poma. (2015). Taphonomy and palaeopathology of two mysticete whales, upper Miocene Pisco Formation, Peru. Spanish Journal of Palaeontology 30(1):1-14.

Esperante, R., Brand, L. R., Chadwick, A. V., & Poma, O. (2015). Taphonomy and paleoenvironmental conditions of deposition of fossil whales in the diatomaceous sediments of the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, southern Peru—A new fossil-lagerstätte. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 417, 337-370. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.09.029

Muñiz, F., Esperante, R., Poma, O., 2011. La icnoespecie Gyrolithes vidali Mayoral 1986 en el Mioceno superior de la formación Pisco (Ica, Perú): Implicaciones paleoambientales. Paleontologia i Evolució Memòria especial 5, 263-267.

Esperante, R., Muñiz Guinea, F., Nick, K.E., 2009. Taphonomy of a Mysticeti whale in the Lower Pliocene Huelva Sands Formation (Southern Spain). Geologica Acta 7, 489-505.

Esperante, R., Brand, L., Nick, K.E., Poma, O., Urbina, M., 2008. Exceptional occurrence of fossil baleen in shallow marine sediments of the Neogene Pisco Formation, southern Peru. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 257, 344-360.

Muñiz, F., Esperante, R., Gibert, J.M.d., Mayoral, E., Santos, A., Berbel, J., 2007. Bioerosión de anélidos osteófagos (Siboglinidae) en el Plioceno Inferior de Almería (SE de España), in: Braga, J.C., Checa, A., Company, M. (Eds.), XXIII Jornadas de la Sociedad Española de Paleontología. Instituto Geológico y Minero, Caravaca de la Cruz, Murcia, pp. 159-160.

Brand, L., Urbina, M., Carvajal, C., DeVries, T., Esperante, R., 2006. A contribution to the stratigraphy of the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Peru. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26, Supplement, 45.

Esperante, R., 2006. Exceptional occurrence of fossil baleen in the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Peru, Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, p. 64.

Esperante, R., 2005. How not to become a fossil --Taphonomy of modern whale falls, in: Martinell, J., Domènech, R., de Gibert, J.M. (Eds.), 2nd International Meeting TAPHOS'05. Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, pp. 103-104.

Santisteban, C.d., Esperante, R., 2005. Estructura de un cauce encajado (Incised Valley), en materiales de la Formación Calizas, areniscas y arcillas de Villar del Arzobispo, Cuenca Ibérica Suroccidental, Valencia. Geo-Temas 8, 109-112.

Esperante, R., Brand, L., 2003. Higher diatom deposition implied from taphonomic features of fossil marine mammals, Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Peru, AGU Chapman Conference on The role of diatom production and Si flux and burial in the regulation of global cycles. AGU, Paroikia, Paros, Greece, pp. 55-56.

Esperante, R., Brand, L.R., Chadwick, A., Poma, O., 2002. Taphonomy of fossil whales in the diatomaceous sediments of the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Peru, in: De Renzi, M., Pardo Alonso, M.V., Belinchón, M., Peñalver, E., Montoya, P., Márquez-Aliaga, A. (Eds.), Current Topics on Taphonomy. Ayuntamiento de Valencia, Valencia, pp. 337-343.

Esperante, R., Brand, L.R., 2002. Preservation of baleen whales in tuffaceous and diatomaceous deposits of the Pisco Fm, southern Peru, in: Brock, G.A., Talent, J.A. (Eds.), First International Palaeontological Congress (IPC2002). Geological Society of Australia, Sydney, Australia, p. 51.