The Age of Dinosaurs was so many millions of years ago that it is very difficult to date exactly. Scientists use two kinds of dating techniques to work out the age of rocks and fossils. The first method is called relative dating. This considers the positions of the different rocks in sequence in relation to each other and the different types of fossil that are found in them. The second method is called absolute dating and is done by analysing the amount of radioactive decay in the minerals of the rocks. Scientists find out the age of a dinosaur fossil by dating not only the rocks in which it lies, but those below and above it.
Dating dinosaurs and other fossils
Some updates to this article are now available. The sections on the branching ratio and dating meteorites need updating. Radiometric dating methods estimate the age of rocks using calculations based on the decay rates of radioactive elements such as uranium, strontium, and potassium. On the surface, radiometric dating methods appear to give powerful support to the statement that life has existed on the earth for hundreds of millions, even billions, of years.
There are two basic approaches: relative geologic age dating, and absolute geologic age dating. Dinosaurs disappeared about 65 million years ago. say in the tens of thousands of years, while potassium-argon dating.
The good dates are confirmed using at least two different methods, ideally involving multiple independent labs for each method to cross-check results. Sometimes only one method is possible, reducing the confidence researchers have in the results. Kidding aside, dating a find is crucial for understanding its significance and relation to other fossils or artifacts. Methods fall into one of two categories: relative or absolute.
Before more precise absolute dating tools were possible, researchers used a variety of comparative approaches called relative dating. These methods — some of which are still used today — provide only an approximate spot within a previously established sequence: Think of it as ordering rather than dating.
Geologic Age Dating Explained
Interbasinal stratigraphic correlation provides the foundation for all consequent continental-scale geological and paleontological analyses. Correlation requires synthesis of lithostratigraphic, biostratigraphic and geochronologic data, and must be periodically updated to accord with advances in dating techniques, changing standards for radiometric dates, new stratigraphic concepts, hypotheses, fossil specimens, and field data.
Outdated or incorrect correlation exposes geological and paleontological analyses to potential error.
radioactive dating helped determine the absolute age of the divisions in the Extinction of dinosaurs Scientists usually use the potassium-argon method to.
The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is a non-profit organization dedicated to professional vertebrate paleontology. Please view our policy page here. Please view the sitemap here. Join Today! Donate to SVP. Contact Us. Search for:. Society News. Romancing the isotopes: radiometric dating I thought I would continue the topic of the last entry, isotopes, and this time talk about how they are used for dating. The key to using isotopes in this way is that some of them are radioactive, meaning that some isotopes decay into other elements.
Without getting too much into the quantum physics of it, the reason decay happens is because this process causes an atom to lose energy, which tends to be a more stable state. There are a few different modes of radioactivity, but for our purposes we’ll focus on two: alpha and beta decay.
Romancing the isotopes: radiometric dating
September 30, by Beth Geiger. Dinosaurs disappeared about 65 million years ago. That corn cob found in an ancient Native American fire pit is 1, years old. How do scientists actually know these ages? Geologic age dating—assigning an age to materials—is an entire discipline of its own. In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do.
Fossils are the bones of our next kids science project. What about discovering how old our dinosaur fossils are? In our Mummification STEM lab that looks at osmosis, we certified our mummy as real or fake using the method of carbon dating. We built a pretend mass spectrometer for kids to play with using the true physical concepts of a real mass spectrometer.
Can we use the same method to date dinosaur bones? Not quite. Carbon 14, the isotope that is used in carbon dating has a half-life of 5, years. If you are wondering if this is fast or slow, or how far you can date with C14, then I have news for you. C14 is considered a fast decay, and it can only date objects that are younger than 50, years old.
How we date dinosaur bones
Potassium-Argon Dating Potassium-Argon dating is the only viable technique for dating very old archaeological materials. Geologists have used this method to date rocks as much as 4 billion years old. It is based on the fact that some of the radioactive isotope of Potassium, Potassium K ,decays to the gas Argon as Argon Ar By comparing the proportion of K to Ar in a sample of volcanic rock, and knowing the decay rate of K, the date that the rock formed can be determined.
How Does the Reaction Work? Potassium K is one of the most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust 2.
There are two fossil dating methods that are regularly used: K-Ar we use one technique on potassium and another technique on argon.
Potassium-argon dating is a method for estimating the age of volcanic rocks by measuring the ratio of potassium to argon present. The method is based on the fact that the potassium isotope of potassium decays over time to form argon The useful fact about these two substances is that at normal temperatures, potassium is a solid, but argon is a gas. Therefore, during volcanic eruptions, any argon that is present escapes from the rock. But after the rock solidifies, any potassium that is present continues to decay, and the argon that is produced cannot escape from the rock.
Thus, geologists use potassium-argon dating to measure the age of volcanic rocks. If the concentration of argon is almost zero, then the rock was formed recently. If it is high relative to the amount of potassium present, then the rock is old.
DK Science: Dating Fossils
Potassium-Argon dating has the advantage that the argon is an inert gas that does not react chemically and would not be expected to be included in the solidification of a rock, so any found inside a rock is very likely the result of radioactive decay of potassium. Since the argon will escape if the rock is melted, the dates obtained are to the last molten time for the rock. Since potassium is a constituent of many common minerals and occurs with a tiny fraction of radioactive potassium, it finds wide application in the dating of mineral deposits.
The feldspars are the most abundant minerals on the Earth, and potassium is a constituent of orthoclase , one common form of feldspar.
It is based on the fact that some of the radioactive isotope of Potassium, Potassium (K),decays to the gas Argon as Argon (Ar). By.
Fossils themselves, and the sedimentary rocks they are found in, are very difficult to date directly. These include radiometric dating of volcanic layers above or below the fossils or by comparisons to similar rocks and fossils of known ages. Knowing when a dinosaur or other animal lived is important because it helps us place them on the evolutionary family tree. Accurate dates also allow us to create sequences of evolutionary change and work out when species appeared or became extinct.
There are two main methods to date a fossil. These are:. Where possible, several different methods are used and each method is repeated to confirm the results obtained and improve accuracy. Different methods have their own limitations, especially with regard to the age range they can measure and the substances they can date. A common problem with any dating method is that a sample may be contaminated with older or younger material and give a false age.
This problem is now reduced by the careful collection of samples, rigorous crosschecking and the use of newer techniques that can date minute samples. Uranium is present in many different rocks and minerals, usually in the form of uranium This form of uranium usually decays into a stable lead isotope but the uranium atoms can also split — a process known as fission.
During this process the pieces of the atom move apart at high speed, causing damage to the rock or mineral.
For more than three decades potassium-argon K-Ar and argon-argon Ar-Ar dating of rocks has been crucial in underpinning the billions of years for Earth history claimed by evolutionists. Dalrymple argues strongly:. Hualalai basalt, Hawaii AD 1. Etna basalt, Sicily BC 0.
Intro How did they move? What did they look like? Are they all the same species? When did they live? Lucy and other members of her species, Australopithecus afarensis , lived between 3. They are believed to be the most ancient common ancestor , or “stem” species, from which all later hominids sprang. How do we know when they lived?
Estimating the age of hominid fossils is usually a painstaking, two-part process, involving both “absolute” and “relative” dating. A sample of volcanic ash, for instance, can be given an absolute date of 3. Scientists currently don’t have a technique for dating fossils like Lucy directly, but they can assign these fossils relative dates based on the age of layers of volcanic ash found above and below them.
The Laetoli footprints are rare treasures in the record of human ancestry. They are fossils captured in volcanic rock that can be given an absolute date.
Was it a comet or asteroid impact? Volcanic eruptions? Climate change?
The approach makes use of a naturally radioactive isotope of potassium which decays into argon. It is among the most precise ways of “clocking”.
Have you ever wondered how we can tell when the dinosaurs went extinct? The answers lie in the noble gas argon. The lower the volume, the higher the sensitivity. Scientists use a method called Ar-Ar dating to determine the age of the fossils they discover. Back when dinosaurs roamed the planet, volcanoes were more active. Now and then dinosaurs died and asteroids would crash down from outer space, preserving the dinosaurs under even more layers of sediment. When lava cools, it hardens and the trapped potassium decays very slowly to argon.
In this way, argon is like a clock.
The older method required splitting samples into two for separate potassium and argon measurements, while the newer method requires only one rock fragment or mineral grain and uses a single measurement of argon isotopes. The sample is generally crushed and single crystals of a mineral or fragments of rock hand-selected for analysis. These are then irradiated to produce 39 Ar from 39 K.
Potassium-Argon dating has the advantage that the argon is an inert gas that does with the extinction of the dinosaurs in the period about 65 million years ago.
Geologists do not use carbon-based radiometric dating to determine the age of rocks. Carbon dating only works for objects that are younger than about 50, years, and most rocks of interest are older than that. Carbon dating is used by archeologists to date trees, plants, and animal remains; as well as human artifacts made from wood and leather; because these items are generally younger than 50, years. Carbon is found in different forms in the environment — mainly in the stable form of carbon and the unstable form of carbon Over time, carbon decays radioactively and turns into nitrogen.
A living organism takes in both carbon and carbon from the environment in the same relative proportion that they existed naturally. Once the organism dies, it stops replenishing its carbon supply, and the total carbon content in the organism slowly disappears. Scientists can determine how long ago an organism died by measuring how much carbon is left relative to the carbon Carbon has a half life of years, meaning that years after an organism dies, half of its carbon atoms have decayed to nitrogen atoms.
Similarly, years after an organism dies, only one quarter of its original carbon atoms are still around. Because of the short length of the carbon half-life, carbon dating is only accurate for items that are thousands to tens of thousands of years old. Most rocks of interest are much older than this.