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Scientists know that the layers they see in sedimentary rock were built up in a certain order, from bottom to top.
This is just a fancy term for the way rock layers are built up and changed by geologic processes.
Let's say that Paul the Paleontologist found an iguanodon fossil in the light green layer shown above.
And, he also found a coelophysis fossil in the yellow layer. Of course, the coelophysis, which means that coelophysis came before iguanodon.
Again, this doesn't tell them exactly how old the layers are, but it does give them an idea of the ordered sequence of events that occurred over the history of that geologic formation.
Sort of an offshoot of stratigraphic succession is fossil succession, or a method in which scientists compare fossils in different rock strata to determine the relative ages of each.
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Recently, he appeared on the evening news to talk about a new dinosaur he just discovered. Paul says he can tell from the fossils that superus awesomus lived on Earth about 175 million years ago.