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New test adds to scientists' understanding of Earth's history, resources
Date:12/5/2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. A new study co-authored by a University of Florida researcher provides the first direct chronological test of sequence stratigraphy, a powerful tool for exploring Earth's natural resources.

The model allows geologists to better understand how sedimentary rocks are related to one another in time and space and predict what types of rocks are located in different areas. The information may help scientists more reliably interpret various aspects of Earth's history such as long-term climate changes or extinction events, and also benefit companies searching for the best locations to drill for oil.

The study published online Friday in Geology uses extensive numerical dating of fossil shells to verify key predictions of the sequence stratigraphy model. Although used successfully for more than 30 years as a theoretical framework for interpreting and exploring rock bodies, the model had never been proven quantitatively by direct numerical dating.

"Paleontologists and geologists are well aware of the fact that you should not take the fossil record at face value because you will then see changes through time that may not be meaningful," said study co-author Michal Kowalewski, a curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. "However, by using dating to quantify how the resolution changes through time, we can improve quality control on our data and develop better strategies for reconstructing the history of life more accurately."

In the study, researchers used racemization, a technique in which amino acid ratios are obtained to estimate the age of fossils from the most recent geological record. Relative age estimates were calibrated using radiocarbon to date about 250 mollusk shells extracted from cores drilled in the Po Plain in northern Italy. The technique, developed over the last 30 years, has made dating of large numbers of shells affordable and efficient, K
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Contact: Michal Kowalewski
mkowalewski@flmnh.ufl.edu
540-250-4013
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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