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10-Aug-2017 16:12

Also includes info on how fossils are formed, the “cleaning, preparing, & repairing” of fossils, and other useful resources.

Since the 1940s, scientists have used carbon dating to determine the age of fossils, identify vintages of wine and whiskey, and explore other organic artifacts like wood and ivory.

New discoveries have filled in the gaps, and shown us in unimaginable detail the shape of the great ‘tree of life’.

Darwin and his contemporaries could never have imagined the improvements in resolution of stratigraphy that have come since 1859, 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.

Older dates may change by a few million years up and down, but younger dates are stable.

For example, it has been known since the 1960s that the famous Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, the line marking the end of the dinosaurs, was 65 million years old.

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. Relative dating is done by observing fossils, as described above, and recording which fossil is younger, which is older.

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Today, innovative techniques provide further confirmation and understanding of the history of life.A key point is that it is no longer necessary simply to accept one chemical determination of a rock’s age.Age estimates can be cross-tested by using different isotope pairs.Repeated, and tough, regimes of testing have confirmed the broad accuracy of the fossils and their dating, so we can read the history of life from the rocks with confidence. Educators have permission to reprint articles for classroom use; other users, please contact [email protected] reprint permission. Currently, he is studying certain basal dinosaurs from the Late Triassic and the quality of different segments of the fossil record.

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He holds the Chair in Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Bristol, UK, in addition to chairing the Masters program in paleobiology at the university.Fossils document the order of appearance of groups and they tell us about some of the amazing plants and animals that died out long ago.