Three methods dating fossils

Some fossils, called index fossils, are particularly useful in correlating rocks.

For a fossil to be a good index fossil, it needs to have lived during one specific time period, be easy to identify and have been abundant and found in many places. If you find ammonites in a rock in the South Island and also in a rock in the North Island, you can say that both rocks are Mesozoic.

When it comes to determining the age of stuff scientists dig out of the ground, whether fossil or artifact, “there are good dates and bad dates and ugly dates,” says paleoanthropologist John Shea of Stony Brook University.

The good dates are confirmed using at least two different methods, ideally involving multiple independent labs for each method to cross-check results.

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

Putting together the pieces of the puzzle of human biological history is the task of paleontologists, geologists and anthropologists.

In this room we explore how these scientists can reconstruct the past from their studies of the geological contexts in which fossils are found, the dating of the specimens, their comparative anatomy with extinct and living species of our taxonomic order, the Primates, and the lifeways and behavior patterns of the first members of the human family within the Primates.

Throughout the history of life, different organisms have appeared, flourished and become extinct.

Many of these organisms have left their remains as fossils in sedimentary rocks.

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