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Studying the layers of rock or strata can also be useful. If a layer of rock containing the fossil is higher up in the sequence that another layer, you know that layer must be younger in age. This can often be complicated by the fact that geological forces can cause faulting and tilting of rocks.Absolute dating is used to determine a precise age of a rock or fossil through radiometric dating methods.These isotopes break down at a constant rate over time through radioactive decay.By measuring the ratio of the amount of the original (parent) isotope to the amount of the (daughter) isotopes that it breaks down into an age can be determined.Carbon-14, the radioactive isotope of carbon used in carbon dating has a half-life of 5730 years, so it decays too fast.It can only be used to date fossils younger than about 75,000 years.Continue Reading Relative dating observes the placement of fossils and rock in layers known as strata.
Relative dating uses observation of location within rock layers, while radiometric dating uses data from the decay of radioactive substances within an object.Scientists can use certain types of fossils referred to as index fossils to assist in relative dating via correlation.Index fossils are fossils that are known to only occur within a very specific age range.We define the rate of this radioactive decay in half-lives.If a radioactive isotope is said to have a half-life of 5,000 years that means after 5,000 years exactly half of it will have decayed from the parent isotope into the daughter isotopes.The same rock formation also contains a type of trilobite that was known to live 415 to 425 million years ago.