Fossilization is an exceptionally rare occurrence. After death, organisms tend to decompose quickly. What scavengers like vultures and hyenas leave behind, flies, ants, worms, and bacteria quickly consume. Scientist Olivia Judson provides this good example of what happens to an adult male gorilla in the tropical rainforests of the Congo; "An adult male gorilla— all pounds of him—will be reduced to a pile of bones and hair within 10 days of his death.
Within three weeks, there will be nothing left but a few small bones. Trace fossils are the marks left by a living organism, such as feces, footprints or impressions of feathers or leaves.
Organisms usually need to be covered by mud, sand, tar or some other sediment as soon as possible or frozen or dessicated dried out for fossilization to occur. How old does something have to be to be a fossil?
Fossils, by definition, are the remains or traces of organisms that lived at least 10, years ago. This date marks the end of the Cenozoic Era and the Pleistocene Period on the geologic time scale.
How old is the oldest fossil on earth? The oldest uncontested fossils on earth are 2 billion year-old stromatolites in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario.
Composed of layers of sediments laid down by colonies of cyanobacteria, stromatolites still exist, but are quite rare today. The earth itself is around 4.
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USGS How old is the sun? The sun formed around 4.
How accurate are they? Radiocarbon dates come from organic matter that contain the element carbon. Ice cores, pollen, wood, hair, bone, shell, bird egg shell, and coral are some of the things datable by this technology which depends on measuring the atomic decay rate of carbon isotopes.
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Modern labs can measure samples as small as mg 0. Most fossil are dated by decay of isotopes such as UraniumPotassium 40, and Rubidium 87 that have much longer half-lives than carbon
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