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Using relative dating the fossil is compared to something for which an age is already known.For example if you have a fossil trilobite and it was found in the Wheeler Formation.Radioactive decay is a natural process and comes from the atomic nucleus becoming unstable and releasing bits and pieces.These are released as radioactive particles (there are many types).Relative dating is used to arrange geological events, and the rocks they leave behind, in a sequence.The method of reading the order is called stratigraphy (layers of rock are called strata).Geologists have studied the order in which fossils appeared and disappeared through time and rocks. Fossils can help to match rocks of the same age, even when you find those rocks a long way apart.
The majority of the time fossils are dated using relative dating techniques.
This decay process leads to a more balanced nucleus and when the number of protons and neutrons balance, the atom becomes stable.
This radioactivity can be used for dating, since a radioactive 'parent' element decays into a stable 'daughter' element at a constant rate.
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.Throughout the history of life, different organisms have appeared, flourished and become extinct.