Experimental and field data are used to extend the utility of conodonts as semi-quantitative thermal indices into the regimes of regional and contact metamorphism, as well as hydrothermal alteration. An Arrhenius plot of data from induced conodont color alteration by pyrolysis in air at 1 atm was used to generate the geologic temperatures for conodont color-alteration indices (CAI) above 300 °C, that is, for CAI values of 5½ through 8. Such CAI values occur in very low- to medium-grade, regionally metamorphosed, contact-metamorphosed, and hydrothermally altered rocks. The uniformity or variability of CAI values within a sample, together with conodont texture, can help to distinguish grades and environments of metamorphism, particularly in metacarbonate sequences. Induced CAI by pyrolysis in a water-methane mixture at ½ kbar results in retardation of CAI and in a disparate mixture of both low and high CAI values within each experimental sample. In this system, color-alteration processes, above a CAI of 2 to 3, seem to change from predominantly carbonization to predominantly loss of organic matter, presumably by oxidation and volatilization of oxides. These experiments approximate the type of CAI mixture characteristically found in conodonts recovered from hydrothermally altered rocks. These data indicate that CAI values of 6 to 8 cannot be used to assess precise temperatures of hydrothermally altered rocks but may serve as useful indicators of potential mineralization.

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