# Three methods of dating fossils

For example if you have a fossil trilobite and it was found in the Wheeler Formation. Uranium-Lead Dating There are different methods of radiometric dating that will vary due to the type of material that is being dated. Since the rock formation contains both types of fossils the ago of the rock formation must be in the overlapping date range of to million years. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows.

It works because we know the fixed radioactive decay rates of uranium, which decays to lead, and for uranium, which decays to lead These isotopes break down at a constant rate over time through radioactive decay. The Wheeler Formation has been previously dated to approximately million year old, so we know the trilobite is also about million years old. Using relative dating the fossil is compared to something for which an age is already known. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay. These differing rates of decay help make uranium-lead dating one of the most reliable methods of radiometric dating because they provide two different decay clocks. It can only be used to date fossils younger than about 75, years. Typically commonly occurring fossils that had a widespread geographic distribution such as brachiopods, trilobites, and ammonites work best as index fossils. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows. Uranium-Lead Dating There are different methods of radiometric dating that will vary due to the type of material that is being dated. This uses radioactive minerals that occur in rocks and fossils almost like a geological clock. The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life. If a radioactive isotope is said to have a half-life of 5, years that means after 5, years exactly half of it will have decayed from the parent isotope into the daughter isotopes. The atoms in some chemical elements have different forms, called isotopes. Potassium on the other hand has a half like of 1. While people are most familiar with carbon dating, carbon dating is rarely applicable to fossils. Radioactive Decay The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. Absolute dating is used to determine a precise age of a fossil by using radiometric dating to measure the decay of isotopes, either within the fossil or more often the rocks associated with it. Different methods of radiometric dating can be used to estimate the age of a variety of natural and even man-made materials. This provides a built-in cross-check to more accurately determine the age of the sample. So, how do we know how old a fossil is? So, if you know the radioactive isotope found in a substance and the isotope's half-life, you can calculate the age of the substance. So, we rely on radiometric dating to calculate their ages. Relative dating is used to determine a fossils approximate age by comparing it to similar rocks and fossils of known ages. We define the rate of this radioactive decay in half-lives. Radiometric dating, or radioactive dating as it is sometimes called, is a method used to date rocks and other objects based on the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes. This can often be complicated by the fact that geological forces can cause faulting and tilting of rocks.

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