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Some paleontologists do study the fossil record of humans and their relatives.However, paleontology as a whole encompasses all life, from bacteria to whales.For additional information on the subdisciplines of paleontology, read our "What is paleontology? Archaeologists primarily work with human artifacts objects that have been made by humans and with human remains.Anthropologists work with humans their cultures, societies, languages, and ways of life, in addition to their bones and artifacts.
A fossil is defined as any trace of a past life form.Older rocks can be dated using potassium-40, which decays to argon-40, or uranium-235, which decays to lead-207.However, many sedimentary rocks cannot be dated directly by these methods; dates usually are obtained from igneous rocks within a sedimentary sequence, such as lava flows or ash beds.Paleontologists study fossils and attempt to use them to reconstruct the history of the Earth and the life on it.Some paleontologists study the ecology of the past; others work on the evolution of fossil taxa.
Some paleontologists work for the petroleum industry, and use fossils to interpret sequences of sedimentary rocks.