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All these labors have not led to a single unexpected finding such as a human fossil from the time of the dinosaurs, or a Jurassic dinosaur in the same rocks as Silurian trilobites.Paleontologists now apply sophisticated mathematical techniques to assess the relative quality of particular fossil successions, as well as the entire fossil record.He carries a small wood box containing a silver bracelet and ring, and a bouquet of resplendent burgundy tulips.

Darwin and his contemporaries could never have imagined the improvements in resolution of stratigraphy that have come since 1859, nor guessed what fossils were to be found in the southern continents, nor predicted the huge increase in the number of amateur and professional paleontologists worldwide.The methods are all based on radioactive decay: The first radiometric dates, generated about 1920, showed that the Earth was hundreds of millions, or billions, of years old.Since then, geologists have made many tens of thousands of radiometric age determinations, and they have refined the earlier estimates.Fossils document the order of appearance of groups and they tell us about some of the amazing plants and animals that died out long ago.Fossils can also show us how major crises, such as mass extinctions, happened, and how life recovered after them.

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