Coming down

Sedimentary rocks and depositional
environments

Reading
Chapter 2

Sedimentary rocks
formed from weathering products of existing rock
Sedimentary rocks make up 75% of the surface of
Earth, but only 5% of the crust. They occur only at
the outermost layers of the crust.
Greatest economic importance of the three
primary rock types (e.g., marble, crushed rock,
paving stones, gravel, brick, lime).

Erosion and
redeposition
from the tops of
mountains to the
bottom of the sea

Most sedimentary rocks are formed from...
1. Fragments produced by weathering and erosion
from other rocks (clasts);
2. Crystals precipitated from sea water;
3. Skeletal debris from organisms.

Crinoidal limestone from Monroe County, Indiana.

Some examples of agents of erosion and redeposition
Physical
• Wind
• Water
• Ice
• Gravity
• ‘Sheeting’
• Animal or plant activity
Chemical
• Oxygen
• Water
• Animal

Depositional environment
region where weathered sediment accumulates
Specific physical, chemical and biological processes
characterize different environments.
Continental, transitional, marine.

Most clastic rocks are classified by their grain size...

Chemical and biogenic sediments
sediments that precipitate out of solution,
normally in shallow marine or lake
environments
Carbonates and evaporites are the main
examples.
Chert (or flint), which is precipitated
quartz, normally embedded in limestone, is
a chemical sediment.

Evaporites
Form from the evaporation of seawater or other natural water.
Anhydrite and gypsum are
the most abundant. Halite
is another example, natural
salt.

Evaporation pools in San Francisco Bay

Carbonates
Formed primarily of calcite or aragonite, precipitated from
seawater or formed through the accumulation of skeletal
remains of organisms (shells, corals, etc.).
Carbonate rocks include:
Limestone, Chalk, Dolomite, Travertine, Oolites

White cliffs of Dover, composed of chalk

Summary of Sedimentary Rocks
Conglomerate – clastic rock, deposited by water or gravity
Sandstone – clastic rock, deposited by water or wind
Siltstone – clastic rock, deposited by water
Mudstone – clastic rock, deposited by water
Shale – clastic rock, deposited by water
Chert – chemical sediment, often in carbonate rocks
Anhydrite – evaporite
Gypsum – evaporite
Halite – evaporite
Limestone – carbonate, mostly composed of marine organisms
Chalk – carbonate, mostly composed of micro-organisms (coccolithophores)
Dolomite – carbonate,
Travertine – carbonate, natural precipitate, often at mineral springs
Oolite – carbonate, composed of tiny balls of aragonite needles

Sedimentary rocks are
deposited in basically
horizontal layers that
accumulate over time

Nicholas Steno (1638-1686)
Danish scientist

Recognized that fossils were not
sediments, but were deposited in
sediments
His work was the beginning of
historical geology and stratigraphy
Remembered for his three
principles...

Steno’s three principals
1. The principle of original horizontality: Sediments are
deposited (quasi-) horizontally. Any deformation or
inclination of sediments has occured after deposition.
2. The principle of superposition: In undeformed
sediments or strata, the oldest layers are at the
bottom and the youngest are at the top.
3. The principle of lateral continuity: The material in a
sedimentary layer was once a single sheet unless
something stood in the way.

Tectonic deformation can fold and turn
sedimentary beds so they are no long
horizontal

Unconformities are breaks in the
sedimentary sequence
Angular unconformity. – When the
older layer of rock has been tilted or
deformed before the younger layer
was added.
Disconformity. – When no tilting
happened before the younger layer
was added, only erosion, so that the
evidence for the unconformity is more
subtle.
Nonconformity. – When sedimentary
beds lie on top of non-sedimentary
rocks.

Siccar Point, Scotland. A classic angular unconformity.

Age and Stage
Stage = Rocks

The Toracian Age is the
geologic time period that
encompasses the time during
which the rocks in the Stage at
Thouars, France were
deposited.

Toracian

Age = Time

Rock section at Vrines
près de Thouars
(Deux-Sèvres).

Disconformity exemplifies the difference between
Age and Stage (chronostratigraphy and
lithostratigraphy) because the Age is a continuous
period of time from beginning to end, but the rocks
may have gaps when no rock was deposited.

Fossils
Traces of past life

Hard parts of organisms – teeth,
bones, shells – are the most common
fossils.
These may retain their original
material and structure, they may have
been permineralized, or the original
mineral may have been replaced.

Soft parts can, rarely, be
preserved as impressions,
carbonizations, frozen, or
mummified

Other types of fossils
Molds
Endocasts
Impressions
Trace fossils
Molecules or
biomarkers
Fossil fuels