Abstract

Bedding-parallel fibrous calcite veins in black shales (Cretaceous, southern UK) were investigated using a combined field, stable isotopic geochemistry, petrographic and crystallographic method to examine their formation mechanism. Calcite veins occur in all shale beds and are most abundant in the bituminous shales of the Chief Beef Beds. The calcite fibres in these veins exhibit either an antitaxial fibre growth with curvy stylolites as the median zone, or a predominantly syntaxial, upwards growth. The calcite veins range from –0.49 to 1.78‰ of δ13C values, and –6.53 to –0.03‰ of δ18O values, which are both similar to those of their host shales. Our petrographic observations demonstrate that subhorizontal and interconnecting microstylolite networks commonly occur within the calcite veins. Equant calcite grains in the median zones exhibit indenting, truncating and also interpenetrating grain contacts. It is interpreted that the fibrous calcite veins were sourced by neomorphic calcite from their host shales, with evidence from the δ13C signatures, pressure-solution features (stylolites, microstylolites and grain contact styles) and embedded fossil ghosts within the veins. The diagenetic fluids, from which calcite was precipitated, were a mixing of the original seawaters and 18O-depleted meteoric waters. Development of bedding-parallel calcite veins is considered to have been enhanced by pressure solution as a positive feedback mechanism, which was facilitated by the overburden pressure as the maximum principal stress. Calcite fibres, with a predominant subvertical c-axis orientation, exhibit a displacive growth in porous shales and a replacive growth at vein-limestone contacts. This study highlights the critical role of pressure solution in the formation of bedding-parallel calcite veins during burial and diagenesis of immature black shales.

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