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Sedimentary Rocks

31 August 2015

Sedimentary Rocks
Sedimentary rocks can be divided
into four types, based on the
processes responsible for their
clastic sedimentary rocks
biochemical (or biogenic)
sedimentary rocks,
chemical sedimentary rocks
"other" sedimentary rocks formed
by impacts, volcanism, and other
minor processes

Clastic Sedimentary Rocks

Composed of silicate minerals and rock
fragments that were transported and deposited
These rocks largely contain quartz, feldspar,
lithic fragments, clay minerals, and mica
Described and classified based on the
dominant size of grains present primarily
done using the Udden-Wentworth grain size

Grain Size
Unconsolidated sediment is broken into three
size fractions:
gravel (>2mm diameter)
sand (1/16 to 2mm diameter)
mud (clay is <1/256mm and silt is between 1/16
and 1/256mm)
The classification of clastic sedimentary rocks follows
this scheme; conglomerates/breccias are made mostly
of gravel, sandstones are made mostly of sand, and
mudstones/claystones are made mostly of mud/clay

Conglomerates and Breccias

Conglomerates are dominantly
composed of rounded gravel
Breccias are composed of dominantly
angular gravel


Sandstone classification schemes vary
Most commonly used is a scheme that
uses the relative abundance of quartz,
feldspar, and lithic fragments - these are
the three most abundant components; all
other minerals are considered accessories
and not used in the naming of the rock

The relative abundance of sand-sized

framework grains determines the
first word in a sandstone name
Quartz sandstones have >90% quartz
Feldspathic sandstones have <90%
quartz grains and more feldspar grains
than lithic grains
Lithic sandstones have <90% quartz
grains and more lithic grains than
feldspar grains

Spaces between grains may have a

matrix or may remain clean
"Clean" sandstones with open pore
space (that may later be filled with
cement) are called arenites
Muddy sandstones with abundant
(>10%) muddy matrix are called wackes



Sedimentary rocks composed of at least 50%
silt- and clay-sized particles
Term "mudrock sometimes used to refer to all
rocks composed dominantly of mud, but
siltstone, mudstone and claystone are preferred
siltstones (mainly composed of silt-sized particles)
mudstones (~equal mixture of silt- and clay-sized
claystones (composed mostly of clay-sized particles)



Detrital Sedimentary Rocks

Detritus is the term applied to solid materials
that are weathered/eroded off the parent rock
Comprised of a wide variety of minerals and
rock fragments
Clay minerals and quartz are the most
common minerals found in detrital rocks
Classification based on the grain size present

Chemical Sedimentary
Unlike detrital sedimentary rocks, chemical
sedimentary rocks precipitate out of solution
Precipitation can be driven by evaporation
and saturation
Can even create chemical rocks through
creation of organic forms, such as shells

Chemical Sedimentary
Forms when mineral constituents in solution
become supersaturated and inorganically
Key term is inorganic NO organic means may
be involved
Common examples include types of limestone,
and evaporite deposits such as those including
halite (rock salt), sylvite and gypsum

Chemical Sedimentary Rock

Identification and classification in
chemical sedimentary rocks is based
primarily on composition not
Once the mineral and chemical
constituents are identified, then the
use of texture occurs

Types of Chemical Sedimentary

Types of chemical sedimentary rocks
Microcrystalline quartz (silica)

Limestone variety

Biochemical Limestone Coquina

Biochemical Limestone
Fossiliferous Limestone

Biochemical Limestone Chalk

Microcrystalline Quartz



Biochemical Sedimentary
Created when organisms use materials
dissolved in air or water to build their tissue
Best known examples are:
limestone formed from the calcareous skeletons
of organisms such as corals
deposits of chert formed from the accumulation
of siliceous skeletons from microscopic

Other Sedimentary Rocks

Typically called the miscellaneous
category, this can include rocks
formed by pyroclastic flows, impact
breccias, volcanic breccias, and other
relatively uncommon processes

Describing Sedimentary
Basic properties need to be
described, in order to classify or
properly describe a sedimentary rock

Color often determined by iron
Iron(II) oxide only forms under anoxic
circumstances and gives a grey or greenish
Iron(III) oxide is often the mineral hematite
and gives a reddish to brownish color
Organic material can color a rock black or grey

The size, form and orientation of clasts or minerals in a rock
is called its texture
Clastic rocks have a 'clastic texture', which means they
consist of clasts
3D orientation of these clasts is called the fabric of the rock
Between the clasts can be a matrix or a cement
Distribution of grain sizes is different for different rock types described as the sorting of the rock
Rounding describes the general smoothness of the shape of a grain
Sphericity describes the degree to which the grain approaches a

Chemical sedimentary rocks have a non-clastic texture,

consisting entirely of crystals

Most sedimentary rocks contain either quartz or
Contrasting with igneous and metamorphic rocks
- sedimentary rocks usually contain very few
different major minerals, however, the origin of
these minerals is more complex than the others
Minerals in a sedimentary rock may have formed
during sedimentation or diagenesis

Sedimentary rocks are the only type of rock that can
contain fossils
Chance of fossilization is higher when the
sedimentation rate is high
Most sedimentary rocks contains fossils most are
microscopic or quite small
Not all fossils are skeletal remains - imprints of
organisms made while still alive are called trace fossils

Sedimentary Maturity
Maturity describes the composition of grains in sandstones
Scale showing the sorting, rounding and mineralogic percentage
of the grains
There are two components to maturity: texture (how rounded
and sorted) and composition (% of stable minerals and
Unstable minerals react with their surroundings or weather away
during weathering and erosion
Mature sediments = stable minerals = generally have a smaller
variety of minerals than immature sediment