Name: Lab: Matching Rock Layers Adapted from Exploration in Earth Science, The Physical Setting, United Publishing Company, Inc

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1 Name: Lab: Matching Rock Layers Adapted from Exploration in Earth Science, The Physical Setting, United Publishing Company, Inc INTRODUCTION: Geologists can determine the relative ages of the rock layers in a rock formation. But how do they determine whether the rocks or geologic events occurring at one location are of the same age as those in another location? The process that showing that rocks or geologic events occurring at different locations are of the same age is called correlation. Geologists have developed a system for correlating rocks by looking for similarities in composition and rock layer sequences at different locations. Certain fossils, called index fossils, existed for a very short time and were distributed over a large geographic area. They aid the geologist in correlating sedimentary rock layers. OBJECTIVE: You will be able to construct a geologic history of a region by observing rock layers in different localities. VOCABULARY: Absolute Age: Index Fossil: Correlation: PROCEDURE A: The four diagrams below represent four outcrops at different locations. 1. Reconstruct the complete sequence of events. Assume that the oldest rocks are at the bottom and the youngest are on top. a. Draw lines between matching rock units b. Draw in unconformities where a rock unit is missing 2. Draw in the layers of the complete sequence on the appropriate column of the Report Sheet.

2 PROCEDURE B: The diagrams below identify four types of index fossils and shows four columns of fossil bearing rock strata. Assume overturning has not occurred. 1. Reconstruct the complete sequence of events and draw the layers (with the fossils if present) on the appropriate column of your Report Sheet. Follow these tips to help: a. Draw lines between matching rock layers (if possible) b. Number the layers from youngest to oldest to help correlation 2. Refer to the geologic time scale in your reference tables to identify any layer for which you have enough evidence to determine its age. On the Report Sheet, label its age. The abbreviation mybp stands for million years before present. It may be expressed as a range of several million years.

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4 PROCEDURE C: The diagram below represents three different outcrops. Using the rock type of the strata, correlate the columns. 1. Draw lines representing equivalent boundaries between rock layers from one column to the next. 2. Reconstruct the complete column. (Assume that the oldest rocks are on the bottom and the youngest are on the top. 3. Draw in thick lines on columns 1,2, and 3 identifying the locations of unconformities.

5 Discussion Questions: 1. Explain why some rock layers can be missing from the sequence in some rock outcrops. 2. What does a field geologist look for in rock outcrops to help identify the different rock layers? 3. In Procedure B, what is the youngest possible age of the rock stratum at the very bottom of the geologic column? 4. In Procedure B, how many years are represented between the top and bottom fossil bearing layers? 5. Explain how it is possible that a given type of fossil may be found in a rock stratum at one outcrop, but missing from that same layer at another outcrop. 6. In Procedure C, what is a reason the limestone in column 1 is thinner than the limestone in column 2? 7. According to the appearance of the right side of each column in Procedure C, which rock type appears to be the least resistant to weathering and erosion? CONCLUSION: Why is it necessary to observe the rock layers at several different localities in order to obtain a complete sequence of events?

6 Reading Comprehension Read the portion of the article on determining the ages of rocks below and answer the following questions based on the reading. Use complete sentences. How Do Geologists Know How Old a Rock Is? by Mark Milligan Utah Geologic Survey Geologists generally know the age of a rock by determining the age of the group of rocks, or formation, that it is found in. The age of formations is marked on a geologic calendar known as the geologic time scale. Development of the geologic time scale and dating of formations and rocks relies upon two fundamentally different ways of telling time: relative and absolute. Relative dating places events or rocks in their chronologic sequence or order of occurrence. Absolute dating places events or rocks at a specific time. If a geologist claims to be younger than his or her co-worker, that is a relative age. If a geologist claims to be 45 years old, that is an absolute age. Relative Dating Superposition: The most basic concept used in relative dating is the law of superposition. Simply stated, each bed in a sequence of sedimentary rocks (or layered volcanic rocks) is younger than the bed below it and older than the bed above it. This law follows two basic assumptions: (1) the beds were originally deposited near horizontal, and (2) the beds were not overturned after their deposition. Faunal Succession: Similar to the law of superposition is the law of faunal succession, which states that groups of fossil animals and plants occur throughout the geologic record in a distinct and identifiable order. Following this law, sedimentary rocks can be "dated" by their characteristic fossil content. Particularly useful are index fossils, geographically widespread fossils that evolved rapidly through time. Crosscutting Relationships: Relative ages of rocks and events may also be determined using the law of crosscutting relationships, which states that geologic features such as igneous intrusions or faults are younger than the units they cut across. Inclusions: Inclusions, which are fragments of older rock within a younger igneous rock or coarse-grained sedimentary rock, also facilitate relative dating. Inclusions are useful at contacts with igneous rock bodies where magma moving upward through the crust has dislodged and engulfed pieces of the older surrounding rock. Gaps in the geologic record, called unconformities, are common where deposition stopped and erosion removed the previously deposited material. Fortunately, distinctive features such as index fossils can aid in matching, or correlating, rocks and formations from several incomplete areas to create a more complete geologic record for relative dating. Relative dating techniques provide geologists abundant evidence of the incredible vastness of geologic time and ancient age of many rocks and formations. However, in order to place absolute dates on the relative time scale, other dating methods must be considered. Absolute Dating The nuclear decay of radioactive isotopes is a process that behaves in a clock-like fashion and is thus a useful tool for determining the absolute age of rocks. Radioactive decay is the process by which a "parent" isotope changes into a "daughter" isotope. Rates of radioactive decay are constant and measured in terms of half-life, the time it takes half of a parent isotope to decay into a stable daughter isotope. Some rock-forming minerals contain naturally occurring radioactive isotopes with very long half-lives unaffected by chemical or physical conditions that exist after the rock is formed. Half-lives of these isotopes and the parent-todaughter ratio in a given rock sample can be measured, then a relatively simple calculation yields the absolute (radiometric) date at which the parent began to decay, i.e., the age of the rock.

7 Of the three basic rock types, igneous rocks are most suited for radiometric dating. Metamorphic rocks may also be radiometrically dated. However, radiometric dating generally yields the age of metamorphism, not the age of the original rock. Most ancient sedimentary rocks cannot be dated radiometrically, but the laws of superposition and crosscutting relationships can be used to place absolute time limits on layers of sedimentary rocks crosscut or bounded by radiometrically dated igneous rocks. Sediments less than about 50,000 years old that contain organic material can be dated based on the radioactive decay of the isotope Carbon 14. For example, shells, wood, and other material found in the shoreline deposits of Utah's prehistoric Lake Bonneville have yielded absolute dates using this method. These distinct shorelines also make excellent relative dating tools. Many sections of the Wasatch fault disturb or crosscut the Provo shoreline, showing that faulting occurred after the lake dropped below this shoreline which formed about 13,500 years ago. As this example illustrates determining the age of a geologic feature or rock requires the use of both absolute and relative dating techniques. 1. Describe the four ways the relative age of rocks can be dated. 2. Why is the absolute dating of metamorphic rocks problematic? 3. When do scientists use Carbon-14 for dating rock/events? 4. If you have a rock from the beginning of Earth s formation, which radioactive isotope would you use for dating these rocks: Carbon-14 or Uranium-238 and why?

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