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The principle of faunal succession is based on the appearance of fossils in sedimentary rocks.
As organisms exist at the same time period throughout the world, their presence or (sometimes) absence may be used to provide a relative age of the formations in which they are found.
From top to bottom: Rounded tan domes of the Navajo Sandstone, layered red Kayenta Formation, cliff-forming, vertically jointed, red Wingate Sandstone, slope-forming, purplish Chinle Formation, layered, lighter-red Moenkopi Formation, and white, layered Cutler Formation sandstone.
Photo from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.
The only disturbance that the layers experience is bioturbation, in which animals and/or plants move things in the layers.There are a number of different types of intrusions, including stocks, laccoliths, batholiths, sills and dikes.Cross-cutting relations can be used to determine the relative ages of rock strata and other geological structures.The Law of Superposition, which states that older layers will be deeper in a site than more recent layers, was the summary outcome of 'relative datin g' as observed in geology from the 17th century to the early 20th century.The regular order of the occurrence of fossils in rock layers was discovered around 1800 by William Smith.
Faults are younger than the rocks they cut; accordingly, if a fault is found that penetrates some formations but not those on top of it, then the formations that were cut are older than the fault, and the ones that are not cut must be younger than the fault.