Fossil relative dating activity

Some of the most useful fossils for dating purposes are very small ones.

For example, microscopic dinoflagellates have been studied and dated in great detail around the world.

The site also provides fact sheets on the age of the Earth and isochron dating.

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Relative dating is used to arrange geological events, and the rocks they leave behind, in a sequence.

The method of reading the order is called stratigraphy (layers of rock are called strata).

Geologists have studied the order in which fossils appeared and disappeared through time and rocks. Fossils can help to match rocks of the same age, even when you find those rocks a long way apart.

This matching process is called correlation, which has been an important process in constructing geological timescales.

Suppose you find a fossil at one place that cannot be dated using absolute methods.

That fossil species may have been dated somewhere else, so you can match them and say that your fossil has a similar age.

Students begin by observing a photograph and a diagram of rock layers near Whanganui, watch an animation about how the layers were formed, then use an interactive labelling diagram to work out the order in which the rocks were created.

The activity offers literacy opportunities as well as practice using the science capability 'Interpret representations'.

But sometimes, a scientist finds a couple of rock outcrops that are separated by a wide distance.

One outcrop shows layers from one geologic time period, while the other outcrop represents a different time. Can he put the pieces together to make the story more complete? Let's find out how scientists deal with this common problem by using the fossils inside the rocks.

But did you know that we can also date a rock with a fossil?

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