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Free 5-day trial You may already know how to date a fossil with a rock.

But did you know that we can also date a rock with a fossil?

We'd want to use a more short-lived fossil, like the dodo bird.

We also want our index fossils to be common, widely-distributed species that are easy for scientists to identify.

One outcrop shows layers from one geologic time period, while the other outcrop represents a different time. Can he put the pieces together to make the story more complete? Let's find out how scientists deal with this common problem by using the fossils inside the rocks.

Back in 1793, there lived a land surveyor named William Smith.

Well, let's go back to our surveyor, William Smith.

I know that doesn't seem like a very short time span, but it is when we're talking about geologic time.

Now, when we use fossils to date rocks, we have to be careful. Remember that some species of animals and plants lived for a very long time, while others existed only for a short period of time.

We don't want to use fossils belonging to species that lived for too long; these fossils would show up in more than one rock layer.

We talked about relative dating of rocks and how scientists use stratigraphic succession to compare the ages of different rock layers.

You should already understand that the lower rock strata are generally older than the strata found higher up in the rock.

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Stegosaurus and Triceratops were not part of the same assemblage because they lived at different times.

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