Dating , in geology , determining a chronology or calendar of events in the history of Earth , using to a large degree the evidence of organic evolution in the sedimentary rocks accumulated through geologic time in marine and continental environments. To date past events, processes, formations, and fossil organisms, geologists employ a variety of techniques. These include some that establish a relative chronology in which occurrences can be placed in the correct sequence relative to one another or to some known succession of events. Radiometric dating and certain other approaches are used to provide absolute chronologies in terms of years before the present. The two approaches are often complementary, as when a sequence of occurrences in one context can be correlated with an absolute chronlogy elsewhere.
In geologypictures of rocks can be used to help you best determine which of the three major types a particular rock belongs to: igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic. By comparing your rock sample with photographic examples, you can identify key characteristics such as how the rock was formed, what minerals and other materials it contains, and where the rock may have come from.
Sooner or later, you're bound to encounter hard, rock-like substances that aren't rocks. Such items include man-made substances like concrete and bricks, as well as rocks from outer space such as meteorites that have dubious origins.
Before beginning the identification processmake sure that your sample has been washed to remove dirt. You'll also want to make sure you have a freshly cut surface so you can identify color, grain structure, stratification, texture, and other characteristics.
Igneous rock is created by volcanic activity, forming from magma and lava as they cool and harden. It is most often black, gray, or white, and often has a baked appearance.
Examples of common igneous rock include:. Sedimentary rock, also called stratified rock, is formed over time by wind, rain, and glacial formations. These rocks may be formed by erosion, compression, or dissolution. Sedimentary rock may range from green to gray, or red to brown, depending on iron content and is usually softer than igneous rock.
Relative Dating vs Absolute Dating
Examples of common sedimentary rock include:. Metamorphic rock formation occurs when sedimentary or igneous rock becomes changed, or metamorphosed, by conditions underground. The four main agents responsible for metamorphosing rock are heat, pressure, fluids, and strain, all capable of acting and interacting in an almost infinite variety of ways.
Most of the thousands of rare minerals known to science occur in metamorphic rock. Common examples of metamorphic rock include:. Using the overlapping age ranges of multiple fossils, it is possible to determine the relative age of the fossil species i.
For example, there is a specific interval of time, indicated by the red box, during which both the blue ammonite and orange ammonite co-existed. If both the blue and orange ammonites are found together, the rock must have been deposited during the time interval indicated by the red box, which represents the time during which both fossil species co-existed. In this figure, the unknown fossil, a red sponge, occurs with five other fossils in fossil assemblage B.
Fossil assemblage B includes the index fossils the orange ammonite and the blue ammonite, meaning that assemblage B must have been deposited during the interval of time indicated by the red box. Because, the unknown fossil, the red sponge, was found with the fossils in fossil assemblage B it also must have existed during the interval of time indicated by the red box.
Fossil species that are used to distinguish one layer from another are called index fossils.
Index fossils occur for a limited interval of time. Usually index fossils are fossil organisms that are common, easily identified, and found across a large area.
Because they are often rare, primate fossils are not usually good index fossils. Organisms like pigs and rodents are more typically used because they are more common, widely distributed, and evolve relatively rapidly. Using the principle of faunal succession, if an unidentified fossil is found in the same rock layer as an index fossil, the two species must have existed during the same period of time Figure 4.
If the same index fossil is found in different areas, the strata in each area were likely deposited at the same time.
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. Studying the layers of rock or strata can also be useful. Layers of rock are deposited sequentially. Igneous rocks and high-grade metamorphic rocks are the most likely to be entirely formed of minerals that crystallized when the rocks formed. As most fossils are found in clastic sedimentary rocks, which are made of weathered and eroded minerals and bits of rock of various ages, it is unlikely to be able to make an radiometric age determination of a rock in which a fossil is found. Mar 17, The first method was based on radioactive elements whose property of decay occurs at a constant rate, known as the half-life of the isotope. Today, many different radioactive elements have been used, but the most famous absolute dating method is radiocarbon dating, which uses the isotope 14 C.
Thus, the principle of faunal succession makes it possible to determine the relative age of unknown fossils and correlate fossil sites across large discontinuous areas. All elements contain protons and neutronslocated in the atomic nucleusand electrons that orbit around the nucleus Figure 5a. In each element, the number of protons is constant while the number of neutrons and electrons can vary.
Atoms of the same element but with different number of neutrons are called isotopes of that element. Each isotope is identified by its atomic masswhich is the number of protons plus neutrons. For example, the element carbon has six protons, but can have six, seven, or eight neutrons. Thus, carbon has three isotopes: carbon 12 12 Ccarbon 13 13 Cand carbon 14 14 C Figure 5a.
Sep 01, In order to use the K-Ar dating technique, we need to have an igneous or metamorphic rock that includes a potassium-bearing mineral. One good example is granite, which normally has some potassium feldspar (Figure ). Feldspar does not have any argon in it when it doursim.com: Steven Earle. Relative dating to determine the age of rocks and fossils Geologists have established a set of principles that can be applied to sedimentary and volcanic rocks that are exposed at the Earth's. Unlike ages derived from fossils, which occur only in sedimentary rocks, absolute ages are obtained from minerals that grow as liquid rock bodies cool at or below the surface. When rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures in mountain roots formed where continents collide, certain datable minerals grow and even regrow to record the timing of such geologic events.
C 12 and C 13 are stable. The atomic nucleus in C 14 is unstable making the isotope radioactive. Because it is unstable, occasionally C 14 undergoes radioactive decay to become stable nitrogen N The amount of time it takes for half of the parent isotopes to decay into daughter isotopes is known as the half-life of the radioactive isotope. Most isotopes found on Earth are generally stable and do not change. However some isotopes, like 14 C, have an unstable nucleus and are radioactive.
This means that occasionally the unstable isotope will change its number of protons, neutrons, or both. This change is called radioactive decay. For example, unstable 14 C transforms to stable nitrogen 14 N.
The atomic nucleus that decays is called the parent isotope. The product of the decay is called the daughter isotope. In the example, 14 C is the parent and 14 N is the daughter. Some minerals in rocks and organic matter e. The abundances of parent and daughter isotopes in a sample can be measured and used to determine their age. This method is known as radiometric dating. Some commonly used dating methods are summarized in Table 1. The rate of decay for many radioactive isotopes has been measured and does not change over time.
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Thus, each radioactive isotope has been decaying at the same rate since it was formed, ticking along regularly like a clock. For example, when potassium is incorporated into a mineral that forms when lava cools, there is no argon from previous decay argon, a gas, escapes into the atmosphere while the lava is still molten.
When that mineral forms and the rock cools enough that argon can no longer escape, the "radiometric clock" starts. Over time, the radioactive isotope of potassium decays slowly into stable argon, which accumulates in the mineral. The amount of time that it takes for half of the parent isotope to decay into daughter isotopes is called the half-life of an isotope Figure 5b. When the quantities of the parent and daughter isotopes are equal, one half-life has occurred. If the half life of an isotope is known, the abundance of the parent and daughter isotopes can be measured and the amount of time that has elapsed since the "radiometric clock" started can be calculated.
For example, if the measured abundance of 14 C and 14 N in a bone are equal, one half-life has passed and the bone is 5, years old an amount equal to the half-life of 14 C. If there is three times less 14 C than 14 N in the bone, two half lives have passed and the sample is 11, years old.
However, if the bone is 70, years or older the amount of 14 C left in the bone will be too small to measure accurately. Thus, radiocarbon dating is only useful for measuring things that were formed in the relatively recent geologic past. Luckily, there are methods, such as the commonly used potassium-argon K-Ar metho that allows dating of materials that are beyond the limit of radiocarbon dating Table 1.
Comparison of commonly used dating methods. Radiation, which is a byproduct of radioactive decay, causes electrons to dislodge from their normal position in atoms and become trapped in imperfections in the crystal structure of the material.
Dating methods like thermoluminescenceoptical stimulating luminescence and electron spin resonancemeasure the accumulation of electrons in these imperfections, or "traps," in the crystal structure of the material. If the amount of radiation to which an object is exposed remains constant, the amount of electrons trapped in the imperfections in the crystal structure of the material will be proportional to the age of the material.
These methods are applicable to materials that are up to aboutyears old. However, once rocks or fossils become much older than that, all of the "traps" in the crystal structures become full and no more electrons can accumulate, even if they are dislodged.
Different types of rock dating
The Earth is like a gigantic magnet. It has a magnetic north and south pole and its magnetic field is everywhere Figure 6a. Just as the magnetic needle in a compass will point toward magnetic north, small magnetic minerals that occur naturally in rocks point toward magnetic north, approximately parallel to the Earth's magnetic field. Because of this, magnetic minerals in rocks are excellent recorders of the orientation, or polarityof the Earth's magnetic field.
Small magnetic grains in rocks will orient themselves to be parallel to the direction of the magnetic field pointing towards the north pole.
Remarkable, rather different types of rock dating can
Black bands indicate times of normal polarity and white bands indicate times of reversed polarity. Through geologic time, the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field has switched, causing reversals in polarity.
The Earth's magnetic field is generated by electrical currents that are produced by convection in the Earth's core. During magnetic reversals, there are probably changes in convection in the Earth's core leading to changes in the magnetic field. The Earth's magnetic field has reversed many times during its history. When the magnetic north pole is close to the geographic north pole as it is todayit is called normal polarity. Reversed polarity is when the magnetic "north" is near the geographic south pole.
Using radiometric dates and measurements of the ancient magnetic polarity in volcanic and sedimentary rocks termed paleomagnetismgeologists have been able to determine precisely when magnetic reversals occurred in the past. Combined observations of this type have led to the development of the geomagnetic polarity time scale GPTS Figure 6b. The GPTS is divided into periods of normal polarity and reversed polarity. Geologists can measure the paleomagnetism of rocks at a site to reveal its record of ancient magnetic reversals.
Every reversal looks the same in the rock record, so other lines of evidence are needed to correlate the site to the GPTS.
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Information such as index fossils or radiometric dates can be used to correlate a particular paleomagnetic reversal to a known reversal in the GPTS. Once one reversal has been related to the GPTS, the numerical age of the entire sequence can be determined.
Jul 17, Therefore, some discovered fossils are able to be dated according to the strata, a distinct layer of rock, that they are found in. Another common way that fossils are dated, is through radiocarbon dating. The development of this type of dating, in the s, transformed paleontology and enhanced the accuracy of the fossil record.
Using a variety of methods, geologists are able to determine the age of geological materials to answer the question: "how old is this fossil? These methods use the principles of stratigraphy to place events recorded in rocks from oldest to youngest.
Absolute dating methods determine how much time has passed since rocks formed by measuring the radioactive decay of isotopes or the effects of radiation on the crystal structure of minerals. Paleomagnetism measures the ancient orientation of the Earth's magnetic field to help determine the age of rocks. Deino, A. Evolutionary Anthropology 6 : Faure, G.
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