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Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work! This dating method is based upon the decay of radioactive potassium-40 to radioactive argon-40 in minerals and rocks; potassium-40 also decays to calcium-40.Thus, the ratio of argon-40 and potassium-40 and radiogenic calcium-40 to potassium-40 in a mineral or rock is a measure of the age of the sample.But the new glider fossils from the dinosaur-dominated Jurassic Period, along with numerous other fossils described by Prof Luo and his colleagues in the last 10 years, provide "strong evidence" that ancestral mammals adapted to their wide-ranging environments despite competition from dinosaurs. The age of fossils are determined by carbon dating and by radioactive calculations.What made this discovery of Libby’s possible was the vast amount of work that had gone on before.In particular, two important events: “In 1903, Sir Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) along with Frederick Soddy (1877-1956) identified the phenomenon of radioactive half-life decay, and the discovery of carbon 14 in 1940 by Martin David Karmen and Sam Ruben.” An interesting new science developing, that of the new discovering the old.The Jurassic Maiopatagium and Vilevolodon are long-extinct relatives of living mammals. Luo said they are haramiyidans, an entirely extinct branch on the mammalian evolutionary tree, but are considered to be among forerunners to modern mammals.

This can be seen along many newly built mountainous highways where various layers of rock, minerals, and vegetative materials are exposed to the human eye as the mountains have been cut through to make passageways.Since all living things are made up of carbon, the relative age of fossils, which were once live animal or plant life, can be calculated by estimating at what time the fossil was alive.When the sun’s rays shine on the animals or plants and when this collides with nitrogen it creates Carbon 14, a radioisotope. That means that carbon-14 remnants will still be measurable when compared with the ratio of how this has diminished to the constant amount of Carbon 12 that remains constant.They also show many skeletal features in their shoulder joints and forelimbs that gave the ancient animals the agility to be capable gliders.Evolutionarily, the two fossils, discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation, northeast of Beijing, represent the earliest examples of gliding among extinct mammal ancestors. Luo said the two newly discovered creatures also share similar ecology with modern gliders, with some significant differences.

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The calcium-potassium age method is seldom used, however, because of the great abundance of nonradiogenic calcium in minerals or rocks, which masks the presence of radiogenic calcium.