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The foreign object is thus older than the sedimentary rock because it was there before the sediment that formed the rock.

Since many plants and animals have large habitats, this can be very useful in helping to date sediment layers of interest.

Fossils are any preserved remains or traces of an organism that previously lived.

Index fossils can also be used to determine relative ages of nearby layers of sedimentary rocks.

Characteristic fossils belong to a period, but do not define the time period.

They occur where layers of rock were either eroded away or never deposited and cemented in the first place.

Sometimes there is evidence that an unconformity has occurred; other times, there is no way of knowing if there is a break in the relative time scale.

Effective index fossils have several characteristics—they are widespread, distinctive, abundant, and limited in geologic time.

Most index fossils are marine organisms because fossils form best in marine environments and because oceans allow marine organisms to become widespread and abundant.

Unlike absolute dating, relative dating does not assign specific years to individual events.

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