Index fossil relative dating

The Wheeler Formation has been previously dated to approximately 507 million year old, so we know the trilobite is also about 507 million years old.

But, how can we determine how old a rock formation is, if it hasn’t previously been dated?

Some fossils, called index fossils, are particularly useful in correlating rocks.

For a fossil to be a good index fossil, it needs to have lived during one specific time period, be easy to identify and have been abundant and found in many places. If you find ammonites in a rock in the South Island and also in a rock in the North Island, you can say that both rocks are Mesozoic.

This uses radioactive minerals that occur in rocks and fossils almost like a geological clock.

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