Coral Age Dating Introduction The passage of time can be measured in many ways. For humans, the steady movement of the hands on a clock marks off the seconds and the hours.
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In nature, the constant decay of radioactive isotopes records the age ratio dating of years. Scientists can use the clocklike behavior of these isotopes to determine the age of rocks, fossils, and even some long-lived organisms. Isotopes are forms of an element that have the same number of electrons and protons but different numbers of neutrons. Some of these atomic arrangements are stable, and some are not.
The unstable isotopes change over time into more stable isotopes, in a process called radioactive decay. The original unstable isotope is called the parent isotope, and the more stable form is called the daughter isotope.
Isotopes decay at an exponential rate that that can be described in terms of half-life. Parent isotopes decay to daughter isotopes at a steady, exponential rate that is constant for each age ratio dating. The shape of this curve is the same for the radioactive decay of all isotopes. In this lab, you will use radiometric dating techniques to calculate the ages of living and dead corals on a seamount.
World Bank staff estimates based on age distributions of United Nations Population Division's World Population Prospects: Revision. License: CC BY Line Bar Map.
You will then use this information to determine environmental conditions on the seamount. Instructions You are a marine scientist studying the deep-sea corals growing on a seamount. In order to understand coral life and history, you need to know something about the age and growth patterns of these organisms.
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One way to do this is with radiometric dating. As a coral animal grows, it secretes a age ratio dating external skeleton. Radioactive isotopes absorbed from age ratio dating by the animal are incorporated into the skeleton, where they begin to undergo radioactive decay.
Radiometric dating will reveal the age of individual corals on the seamount. Use your submersible to travel about the seamount and drill samples from the skeletons of living and dead corals. Then calculate either the percentages or ratio of parent to daughter isotopes from the isotopic data measured in each sample. Use the decay parameters chart to translate those figures into the number of half-lives that have elapsed.
Multiply that by the length of a half-life for that isotope page to determine the age of the coral.
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Describe how radioactive decay can be used to date rocks and organic material. As time passes, the percentage of parent isotopes drops and the percentage of daughter isotopes rises.
The ratio of parent and daughter forms reveals how much time has elapsed. Calculate the ages of the six coral samples. Since 1 half-life of Pb is One half-life of C is 5, years, so the coral grew 17, years ago.
Half of 5, is 2, years. Coral 5: The ratio of parent to daughter isotopes is 1, so 1 half-life has elapsed. The coral is 22 years old. That is equivalent to 0. Based on these dates, which way does the current flow past these seamounts? Based on that, it seems likely that the left seamount was colonized first, then ages ratio dating moving left to right across the image carried coral larvae over to the second seamount.
Compare the sizes and ages of the four living corals. Can you make any conclusions about where the most favorable living conditions are located? They are as larger or larger than older specimens found on the flanks of the seamounts.
Perhaps current patterns concentrate food on the peaks or sweep away mud or predators that inhibit rapid growth. Why were some corals dated using Carbon, and others with Lead ?
Why can't Lead - Lead dating be used for anything more than about to years old? Early on the amount of daughter isotopes present will be very age ratio dating, and difficult to measure accurately. On the other hand, after several half-lives have gone by, the actual number of parent and daughter isotopes will change only slightly over long periods of time, so accurate age calculations will be very difficult.
So Lead dating worked well for the living.
How Does Radiocarbon Dating Work? - Instant Egghead #28