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Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.
Carbon-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays bombard nitrogen atoms.
The age of the carbon in the rock is different from that of the carbon in the air and makes carbon dating data for those organisms inaccurate under the assumptions normally used for carbon dating.
This restriction extends to animals that consume seafood in their diet.
Carbon-14 cannot be used to date biological artifacts of organisms that did not get their carbon dioxide from the air.
This rules out carbon dating for most aquatic organisms, because they often obtain at least some of their carbon from dissolved carbonate rock.