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Geosciences LibreTexts

1.4: Faunal Succession and Index Fossils

  • Page ID
    5437
  • Overview

    Another useful tool in relative dating is fossils. Fossils are the preserved remains of ancient organisms normally found within sedimentary rocks. Organisms appear at varying times in geologic history and go extinct at different times. These organisms also change in appearance through time. This pattern of the appearance, change, and extinction of thousands of fossil organisms creates a recognizable pattern of organisms preserved through geologic time. Therefore, rocks of the same age likely contain similar fossils and we can use these fossils to date sedimentary rocks. This concept is called the Law of Faunal Succession.

     

    Some fossils are particularly useful in telling time, these are called Index Fossils. These are organisms that we are likely to find because they were abundant when they were alive and were likely to become fossils (for example, having a robust skeleton). These organisms often have a large geographic range so they can be used as an index fossil in many different areas. However, they should also have a short geologic range (the amount of time an organism is alive on Earth), so we can be more precise in the age of the rock if we find the fossil. Index fossils are often the quickest and easiest way to date sedimentary rocks precisely and accurately.