Why are index fossils useful for dating rocks

07-Sep-2019 00:13 by 9 Comments

Why are index fossils useful for dating rocks - radioisotope dating equation

To determine the relative age of different rocks, geologists start with the assumption that unless something has happened, in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, the newer rock layers will be on top of older ones. This rule is common sense, but it serves as a powerful reference point.

Several other processes result in the accumulation of distinct yearly layers that can be used for dating.

Droughts and other variations in the climate make the tree grow slower or faster than normal, which shows up in the widths of the tree rings.

These tree ring variations will appear in all trees growing in a certain region, so scientists can match up the growth rings of living and dead trees.

The timescale presented at left shows the four major eras (Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic), with the oldest on the right and youngest at the top left.

The eras are broken down into periods, which represent smaller units of time.

Early geologists, in the 1700s and 1800s, noticed how fossils seemed to occur in sequences: certain assemblages of fossils were always found below other assemblages. Since 1859, paleontologists, or fossil experts, have searched the world for fossils.

In the past 150 years they have not found any fossils that Darwin would not have expected.

New discoveries have filled in the gaps, and shown us in unimaginable detail the shape of the great ‘tree of life’.

Darwin and his contemporaries could never have imagined the improvements in resolution of stratigraphy that have come since 1859, nor guessed what fossils were to be found in the southern continents, nor predicted the huge increase in the number of amateur and professional paleontologists worldwide.

Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods.

Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.

Using logs recovered from old buildings and ancient ruins, scientists have been able to compare tree rings to create a continuous record of tree rings over the past 2,000 years.

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