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Although most attention in today's world focuses on dinosaurs and why they became extinct, the world of paleontology includes many other interesting organisms which tell us about Earth's past history.
The study of fossils and the exploration of what they tell scientists about past climates and environments on Earth can be an interesting study for students of all ages.
Relative dating is used to determine a fossils approximate age by comparing it to similar rocks and fossils of known ages.
Absolute dating is used to determine a precise age of a fossil by using radiometric dating to measure the decay of isotopes, either within the fossil or more often the rocks associated with it.
As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.
A fossil can be studied to determine what kind of organism it represents, how the organism lived, and how it was preserved.
Mountains have been built and eroded, continents and oceans have moved great distances, and the Earth has fluctuated from being extremely cold and almost completely covered with ice to being very warm and ice-free.
These changes typically occur so slowly that they are barely detectable over the span of a human life, yet even at this instant, the Earth's surface is moving and changing.
Despite seeming like a relatively stable place, the Earth's surface has changed dramatically over the past 4.6 billion years.The majority of the time fossils are dated using relative dating techniques.Using relative dating the fossil is compared to something for which an age is already known.However, by itself a fossil has little meaning unless it is placed within some context.The age of the fossil must be determined so it can be compared to other fossil species from the same time period.