Though still heavily used, relative dating is now augmented by several modern dating techniques. Radiocarbon dating involves determining the age of an ancient fossil or specimen by measuring its carbon content. Carbon, or radiocarbon, is a naturally occurring radioactive isotope that forms when cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere strike nitrogen molecules, which then oxidize to become carbon dioxide.
Green plants absorb the carbon dioxide, so the population of carbon molecules is continually replenished until the plant dies. 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. Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating.
These skeptics do not provide scientific evidence for their views. Current understanding of the history of life is probably close to the truth because it is based on repeated and careful testing and consideration of data.
The rejection of the validity of fossils and of dating by religious fundamentalists creates a problem for them:. Fossil sequences were recognized and established in their broad outlines long before Charles Darwin had even thought of evolution.
Early geologists, in the s and s, noticed how fossils seemed to occur in sequences: The first work was done in England and France. Then, geologists began to build up the stratigraphic column, the familiar listing of divisions of geological time — Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and so on. Each time unit was characterized by particular fossils.
The scheme worked all round the world, without fail. From the s onwards, geologists noted how fossils became more complex through time. The oldest rocks contained no fossils, then came simple sea creatures, then more complex ones like fishes, then came life on land, then reptiles, then mammals, and finally humans.
Since , paleontologists, or fossil experts, have searched the world for fossils. In the past years they have not found any fossils that Darwin would not have expected. Darwin and his contemporaries could never have imagined the improvements in resolution of stratigraphy that have come since , 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.
All these labors have not led to a single unexpected finding such as a human fossil from the time of the dinosaurs, or a Jurassic dinosaur in the same rocks as Silurian trilobites.
Paleontologists now apply sophisticated mathematical techniques to assess the relative quality of particular fossil successions, as well as the entire fossil record. These demonstrate that, of course, we do not know everything and clearly never will , but we know enough. Today, innovative techniques provide further confirmation and understanding of the history of life.
Biologists actually have at their disposal several independent ways of looking at the history of life - not only from the order of fossils in the rocks, but also through phylogenetic trees. Phylogenetic trees are the family trees of particular groups of plants or animals, showing how all the species relate to each other. So I have to do my biology homework. I was just going to skip it, but i'm already grounded for getting a bad grade in that class and my mom looks my grades up online.
Are you sure you want to delete this answer? Fossils are casts of one living life forms. Use to date very old fossils.
Scientists use two kinds of dating techniques to work out the age of rocks and fossils. The first method is called relative dating. This considers the positions of the. So, how do we know how old a fossil is? There are two main methods determining a fossils age, relative dating and absolute dating. Relative dating is used to.
Measures the decay of one isotope into another. Certain fossils appear for only a short time.
You find them and you can date the rock and the other fossils Stratigraphy: