By correlating fossils from various parts of the world, scientists are able to give relative ages to particular strata. This is called relative dating. Relative dating tells scientists if a rock layer is older or younger than another.
What does relative dating do to scientists?
Relative dating is used to arrange geological events, and the rocks they leave behind, in a sequence. The method of reading the order is called stratigraphy (layers of rock are called strata). Relative dating does not provide actual numerical dates for the rocks.
How do scientists use relative dating to determine the age of a fossil?
Relative dating is used to determine a fossils approximate age by comparing it to similar rocks and fossils of known ages. 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.
How do scientists use radiometric dating to find the age of rocks?
The age of rocks is determined by radiometric dating, which looks at the proportion of two different isotopes in a sample. Radioactive isotopes break down in a predictable amount of time, enabling geologists to determine the age of a sample using equipment like this thermal ionization mass spectrometer.