Irrespective of geologic age, Phanerozoic coated phosphate grains deposited beneath productive surface waters in organic-rich paleoenvironments are of only two types. Unconformity-bounded grains contain internal discordances and erosional surfaces, attributable to multiple episodes of phosphogenesis and sedimentary reworking during periods of stratigraphic condensation. Redox-aggraded grains consist of concordant concentric phosphate laminae that are intimately interlayered with circumgranular layers containing pyrite, chamosite, or barite, recording in situ diagenetic mineralization driven by changes in pore-water redox potential. Such changes can be attributed to variations in biological oxygen demand within suboxic pore-water environments resulting from fluctuations in sedimentation rate of organic carbon. Redox-aggraded grains are thus sensitive indicators of variations in organic carbon export and record changes in primary productivity and/or ecological dynamics of the surface ocean. This concept of coated-grain formation necessitates a long residence time just below the sediment-water interface. If sedimentation rate is too high, grains are rapidly buried and so removed from the zone of active phosphate precipitation. Coated phosphate grains can therefore be considered the granular equivalents of condensed beds. These concepts are equally applicable to the interpretation of other types of coated grains and concretions that contain Eh-sensitive minerals, such as iron-bearing ooids and polymineralic concretions.

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