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Scientists know that the layers they see in sedimentary rock were built up in a certain order, from bottom to top.
When they find a section of rock that has a lot of different strata, they can assume that the bottom-most layer is the oldest and the top-most layer is the youngest.
In fact, Paul already knows that coelophysis lived around 200 million years ago, while iguanodon lived around 150 million years ago.
So, what if Paul found that superus awesomus dinosaur fossil in this middle layer?
But really, how do scientists figure out how old their dinosaur bones are?
Relative dating cannot tell us the actual age of a rock; it can only tell us whether one rock is older or younger than another.If I told you that I was 30 years old, that number would be my numerical age.If I told you I was 32 years younger than my mother, that number would be my relative age.Which of these does a better job of describing my age? So, in both geology and paleontology, we want to be able to point to an object and say exactly how old it is.To do that, we have to learn a little bit about radioactive decay.