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Experimental testing of the transport-durability of shale lithics and its implications for interpreting the rock record

Schieber, Juergen
Sedimentary geology 2016 v.331 pp. 162-169
bedload, case studies, clay, models, rivers, sand, scanning electron microscopy, shale, silt
Detailed petrographic studies of shales show that they consist of a wide range of components, including a wide spectrum of composite particles that were contributed to the precursor muds in the form of high-water-content suspended floccules, bedload floccules, rip-up intraclasts, pedogenic aggregates, and fully lithified shale clasts. Experimental studies show that shale clasts of sand to silt size (shale lithics) can survive hundreds to thousands of kilometers of bedload transport. Observations of modern river and shelf muds reveal the common presence of shale lithics in these sediments, and suggest that a significant portion of ancient shale formations could potentially consist of reworked shale lithics and not, as commonly assumed, of primary composite particles such as clay floccules and organo-minerallic aggregates. Identification of shale lithics in the rock record presents challenges, but careful petrographic examination (using SEM and ion-milled samples) and case studies will help to develop robust criteria for recognition.The presented observations have manifold implications for the interpretation of many aspects of shales: mud transport and accumulation, sediment compaction and basin-fill modeling, and geochemical proxies. They emphasize the essential need for petrographic examination of shale samples before more advanced analyses are undertaken.