Radiometric Dating


Related Posts:

By Eugene Alvin Villar (seav) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Radiometric Dating (Campbell Biology)

Researchers measure radioactive decay in fossils to date these relics of past life. Fossils provide a large body of evidence for evolution, documenting differences between organisms from the past and those living at present and giving us insight into species that have disappeared over time. While the layering of fossil beds establishes that deeper fossils are older than more shallow ones, the actual age (in years) of the fossils in each layer cannot be determined by position alone. This is where radioactive isotopes come in. A “parent” isotope decays into its “daughter” isotope at a fixed rate, expressed as the half-life of the isotope—the time it takes for 50% of the parent isotope to decay. Each radioactive isotope has a characteristic half-life that is not affected by temperature, pressure, or any other environmental variable. Using a process called radiometric dating, scientists measure the ratio of different isotopes and calculate how many half-lives (in years) have passed since an organism was fossilized or a rock was formed. Half-life values range from very short for some isotopes, measured in seconds or days, to extremely long—uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years! Each isotope can best “measure” a particular range of years: Uranium-238 was used to determine that moon rocks are approximately 4.5 billion years old, similar to the estimated age of Earth.


Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology. Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.


Related Research

Research Article: Winged Fruits of Deviacer in the Oligocene from the Ningming Basin in Guangxi, South China

Date Published: December 1, 2015 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Yunfa Chen, Steven R. Manchester, William Oki Wong. Abstract: Deviacer guangxiensis Chen & Manchester sp. nov. is described based on asymmetric samaras from the Oligocene Ningming Formation in Guangxi, South China, representing the first documentation of Deviacer fossils in Asia. The Oligocene species, … Continue reading

Carbon Dating

OpenStax Biology 2e Carbon is normally present in the atmosphere in the form of gaseous compounds like carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon-14 (14C) is a naturally occurring radioisotope that is created in the atmosphere from atmospheric 14N (nitrogen) by the addition of a neutron and the loss of a proton because of cosmic rays. This is … Continue reading

Research Article: Imaging of Jurassic fossils from the Talbragar Fish Bed using fluorescence, photoluminescence, and elemental and mineralogical mapping

Date Published: June 5, 2017 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Michael Frese, Gerda Gloy, Rolf G. Oberprieler, Damian B. Gore, Matt Friedman. Abstract: The Talbragar Fish Bed is one of Australia’s most important Jurassic deposits for freshwater fishes, land plants and aquatic and terrestrial insects. The site has yielded many well preserved fossils, … Continue reading