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Posted by / 09-Jan-2020 03:30

Fossils dating rock

Two such minerals, hematite and maghemite, are prevalent in the Elliot Formation.

Rich in fossils, both plants and animals, the Karoo Basin records crisis periods – mass extinction events – in the distant past when many species became extinct.

My colleagues and I were interested in the age of a specific rock unit in the Karoo Basin: the Elliot Formation.

Rocks of the Elliot Formation outcrop in a ring around the Drakensberg Plateau (see figure).

Our research has found that minerals within the rocks of the Elliot Formation are able to retain primary magnetisations: they have reliably recorded the Earth’s magnetic field at the time of their deposition.

That’s important because natural processes can cause “overprinting” – wiping out the original magnetic signature.

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Understanding these climate change events and their impact on biology in the Karoo Basin could influence the way we look at the sixth extinction, which is happening now: the Anthropocene. There are certain “geological clocks” which help when dating rocks: a mineral called zircon is one. But when these are scarce, we need another way of measuring the age of rocks.

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