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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.
When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen.
Since each of these layers seems so specialized it is easy to conclude that one type of creature gave rise to the next type of creature over the course of whatever time it took to form the various layers between them.
Radiometric dating and many other techniques are used to support the idea that this transformation process took tens and hundreds of millions of years.
This is how carbon dating works: Carbon is a naturally abundant element found in the atmosphere, in the earth, in the oceans, and in every living creature.
C-12 is by far the most common isotope, while only about one in a trillion carbon atoms is C-14.
Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in 1960.