Thursday, August 25, 2016

Photomicrograph- Micro Fault Displacing Proterozoic Stromatolite Laminae

From the Paleoproterozoic Vempalle Dolomite near the village of Gani, Cuddapah Basin, South India,

This was my M.Sc dissertation area. Vempalle Dolomites got me fascinated with carbonate rock textures and diagenesis.

The image shows a micro fault displacing stromatolite laminae. Stromatolites are biosedimentary structures formed when sediment is either trapped within microbial sheets or when CaCO3 minerals like aragonite precipitate around the sheets that cover the sea floor. The microbial colonies grow in a variety of shapes and structures in response to the wave energy conditions. Flat sheet like structures like the one seen in outcrop from where I sampled this rock indicates a low energy regime.

Of interest here:

a) The presence of oolites associated with these lamellar stromatolites. Oolites form in high energy conditions where sediment grains are constantly rolled around and held in suspension for periods of time. This allows layers of calcium carbonate to precipitate around a nucleus resulting in a coated grain containing concentric rings of CaCO3. The presence of layers of oolites in a lamellar stromatolite rock suggests that oolites forming in high energy tidal channels and shoals were transported by storms onto adjacent lower energy settings such as these microbial covered tidal flats.

b) There is variation in the shape and size of dolomite crystals. This variation is not randomly distributed but is fabric selective. The fine grained stromatolite laminae has been replaced by fine grained dolomite. There is some patchy neomorphic (recrystallization) growth of this dolomitized mud into coarser irregular dolomite.  Pore spaces and sheet cracks and fractures are filled with coarser irregular shaped dolomite crystals.  Rhomb shaped dolomite crystals are associated with oolites. This suggests that the rock underwent multiple episodes of dolomitization. The fine grained stromatolite aragonite mud got replaced early by very fine grained dolomite crystals. Contemporaneously, sheet cracks and pores filled with a coarse irregular shaped dolomite crystals.  Both the saturation levels of the replacing fluid and the abundance of nucleation sites affect dolomite crystal shape and size. Finer grained substrates offer abundant nucleation sites resulting in finer grained dolomite. Crystals growing from supersaturated fluids form quickly and interfere with adjacent crystals resulting in irregular shaped interlocking textures.

Oolites made up of either aragonite or high Mg calcite crystals were replaced by rhomb shaped crystals. Rhombic shapes form when dolomite replaces coarser grained substrates or precipitates from fluids which are mildly saturated. In such instances there are fewer nucleation sites and individual crystals have a degree of freedom to grow crystal facets.

There is also chert (microcrystalline silica) in this rock. Its replaces oolites and is present in pores spaces and in fractures.


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