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To see why, imagine an antelope that dies on the African plain.Most of its body is quickly eaten by scavengers, and the remaining flesh is soon eaten by insects and bacteria, leaving behind only scattered bones.Fossils, along with the comparative anatomy of present-day organisms, constitute the morphological, or anatomical, record.By comparing the anatomies of both modern and extinct species, paleontologists can infer the lineages of those species.
This process can occur in very small spaces, such as within the cell wall of a plant cell.
The observation that certain fossils were associated with certain rock strata led 19th century geologists to recognize a geological timescale.
Like extant organisms, fossils vary in size from microscopic, like single-celled bacteria, to gigantic, like dinosaurs and trees.
For example, some insects have been preserved perfectly in amber, which is ancient tree sap.
In addition, several mammoths and even a Neanderthal hunter have been discovered frozen in glaciers.