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Typically commonly occurring fossils that had a widespread geographic distribution such as brachiopods, trilobites, and ammonites work best as index fossils.If the fossil you are trying to date occurs alongside one of these index fossils, then the fossil you are dating must fall into the age range of the index fossil. In a hypothetical example, a rock formation contains fossils of a type of brachiopod known to occur between 410 and 420 million years.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?Far from being data, these dates are actually interpretations of the data.As discussed before, the assumptions influence the interpretation of the data.Scientists can use certain types of fossils referred to as index fossils to assist in relative dating via correlation.
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These isotopes break down at a constant rate over time through radioactive decay.