Abstract

The early Ordovician (~385 Ma) Power Steps Formation, Newfoundland, Canada, exposes a well-preserved mudstone-dominated clinothem that serves as an excellent archive for understanding how mud has been produced, transported and converted into mudstone prior to the evolution of globally widespread, deep soil horizons. Sedimentological analysis of four sandstone and five mudstone facies, along the Ochre Cove clinothem, reveal that mud and sand were delivered by unidirectional currents and experienced episodic reworking by storm waves. Petrographic examination and X-ray diffraction from described mudstone facies reveal significant variability in the distribution of illite versus chlorite between the lower and upper part of the Ochre Cove clinothem. This research highlights that in the present-day clay mineral fraction, illite is often detrital whereas chlorite originated via the alteration of silt-sized, highly unstable, mafic (volcanoclastic?) grains. Throughout all sedimentologic facies, albeit in different proportions, these mafic lithic grains were diagenetically altered via in situ weathering before significant compaction occurred, resulting in the precipitation of significant volumes of pore-bridging, silica- and iron-rich chlorite cement. Compositional, diagenetic and textural attributes across the Ochre Cove mud clinothem vary as a function of starting composition, hydrodynamic sorting and grain density. Given that a significant proportion of clay minerals has been generated via in situ transformation of a mafic, non-stable precursor assemblage, we recommend future studies to incorporate detailed petrographic description along with X-ray diffraction analyses when aiming to employ trends in whole-rock clay mineral data as a proxy in provenance and palaeoclimate studies of very old (pre-Devonian) mudstones and sandstones.

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