Relative Vs. Absolute Dating: The Ultimate Face-off

What is the difference between absolute age and relative age of fossils? One has an explicit date and the other is relative. Related questions What is the principle of Uniformitarianism and how is it important to the relative dating of rocks?

What is the age of inclusions found in a rock relative to the rock in which they are found? What is the principle of cross-cutting relations and why is it important for relative dating?

What forces can disturb relative dating? What is the law of superposition and how can it be used to relatively date rocks?

Relative Vs Absolute Dating

What is meant by dating rocks relatively rather than absolutely? How can fossils be used to determine the relative ages of rock layers?

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How does the law of crosscutting relationships help scientists determine the relative age of rocks? Are only sedimentary rocks used for relative age determination?


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How do index fossils help determine age of rock layers? The relative dating techniques are very effective when it comes to radioactive isotope or radiocarbon dating. However, not all fossils or remains contain such elements. Relative techniques are of great help in such types of sediments. The following are the major methods of relative dating. The oldest dating method which studies the successive placement of layers.

It is based on the concept that the lowest layer is the oldest and the topmost layer is the youngest. An extended version of stratigraphy where the faunal deposits are used to establish dating.

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Faunal deposits include remains and fossils of dead animals. This method compares the age of remains or fossils found in a layer with the ones found in other layers. The comparison helps establish the relative age of these remains. Bones from fossils absorb fluorine from the groundwater. The amount of fluorine absorbed indicates how long the fossil has been buried in the sediments. This technique solely depends on the traces of radioactive isotopes found in fossils. The rate of decay of these elements helps determine their age, and in turn the age of the rocks.

Physical structure of living beings depends on the protein content in their bodies. The changes in this content help determine the relative age of these fossils.

Each tree has growth rings in its trunk. This technique dates the time period during which these rings were formed. It determines the period during which certain object was last subjected to heat. It is based on the concept that heated objects absorb light, and emit electrons.

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The emissions are measured to compute the age. Differentiation Using a Venn Diagram. A Venn diagram depicts both dating methods as two individual sets. The area of intersection of both sets depicts the functions common to both. Take a look at the diagram to understand their common functions.