Abstract

Heavy-mineral distribution on the outer continental shelf off the southern coast of Texas shows regional variability induced by provenance and local variability reflecting genetic differences in sea-floor sediments. Q-mode factor analysis showed that three suites of heavy minerals are present. The southern ancestral Rio Grande delta sediments contain a distinct opaque-pyroxene-garnet suite, whereas the northern ancestral Brazes-Colorado delta sediments contain a tourmaline-green hornblende suite. An interdelta region contains a heavy mineral suite that is mixed owing to contributions from both ancestral deltas. Analysis of variance, correlation, and regression methods indicate that heavy-mineral variations in each sedimentary province have been significantly influenced by hydraulic fractionation by size, shape, and density, and by a selective chemical decomposition of unstable minerals. These factors have operated at varying degrees on the relict, palimpsest, and modern sediment populations of the sedimentary provinces since the end of Pleistocene time. The differential effects of these processes on the sediments have resulted in local variations that contribute to the total mineralogical variability. A comparison of the heavy mineral suites of the modern and relict Rio Grande delta sediments, which are derived from a common provenance, also shows mineral variations resulting from factors other than provenance.

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