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Knowing when a dinosaur or other animal lived is important because it helps us place them on the evolutionary family tree.

Accurate dates also allow us to create sequences of evolutionary change and work out when species appeared or became extinct. These are: Where possible, several different methods are used and each method is repeated to confirm the results obtained and improve accuracy.

This technique is, however, useful for providing relative dates for objects found at the same site.

Another useful chemical analysis technique involves calculating the amount of nitrogen within a bone.

This form of uranium usually decays into a stable lead isotope but the uranium atoms can also split – a process known as fission.

During this process the pieces of the atom move apart at high speed, causing damage to the rock or mineral.

Most fossils are found in sedimentary rocks deposited in layers.The age of volcanic rocks and ash can be determined by measuring the proportions of argon (in the form of argon-40) and radioactive potassium within them.Each volcanic eruption produces a new deposit of ash and rock.Argon is gas that gradually builds up within rocks from the decay of radioactive potassium.It is initially formed in the molten rock that lies beneath the Earth’s crust.

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Instead, other methods are used to work out a fossil’s age.

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