Fossils and relative dating

Absolute age dating is like saying you are 15 years old and your grandfather is 77 years old.

It’s all a bit of a mess—but a mess that can be put in chronological order using relative dating principles.The geologic record is like a big puzzle that (frankly) is really fun to sort out, especially if you are a little OCD and like things to be in order (not that I’d know anything about that…).Perhaps the biggest impediment to a neat and orderly rock record are our old friends weathering and erosion.In relatively close locations, the same actual rock layer may be present.The Grand Canyon’s rock layers can be directly correlated with those of nearby Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon, for example. Let’s say at site 1 you have a set of fossils that are only found together in one particular layer. Fossils called are particularly useful for correlating layers.

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After my three-parter on fossils, I was sure you'd be sick of them, but there was a request (seconded by a few people) to talk about one particular aspect of paleontology that I didn’t cover yet: How do you know how old a fossil is? Misconception: Paleontologists directly date fossils. Correction: Most of the time, fossils are not mean we don’t have any idea how old it is. It’s just that we can’t run some kind of neat test (involving colored water, maybe? Instead, we have to rely on two methods of dating: relative dating and radiometric dating.

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