Analyzing and dating geological specimens

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Gaps in the geologic record, called unconformities, are common where deposition stopped and erosion removed the previously deposited material.Fortunately, distinctive features such as index fossils can aid in matching, or correlating, rocks and formations from several incomplete areas to create a more complete geologic record for relative dating.Faunal Succession: Similar to the law of superposition is the law of faunal succession, which states that groups of fossil animals and plants occur throughout the geologic record in a distinct and identifiable order.Following this law, sedimentary rocks can be “dated” by their characteristic fossil content.Geologists generally know the age of a rock by determining the age of the group of rocks, or formation, that it is found in.The age of formations is marked on a geologic calendar known as the geologic time scale.

Superposition: The most basic concept used in relative dating is the law of superposition.Half-lives of these isotopes and the parent-to-daughter ratio in a given rock sample can be measured, then a relatively simple calculation yields the absolute (radiometric) date at which the parent began to decay, i.e., the age of the rock.Of the three basic rock types, igneous rocks are most suited for radiometric dating.Many sections of the Wasatch fault disturb or crosscut the Provo shoreline, showing that faulting occurred after the lake dropped below this shoreline which formed about 13,500 years ago.As this example illustrates determining the age of a geologic feature or rock requires the use of both absolute and relative dating techniques.

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