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Late Tertiary Petrified Wood from Nevada, USA: Evidence of Multiple Silicification Pathways

Geology Department, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225, USA
Academic Editor: James Schmitt
Geosciences 2015, 5(4), 286-309;
Received: 16 August 2015 / Revised: 7 October 2015 / Accepted: 9 October 2015 / Published: 14 October 2015
Late Tertiary fossil woods from the state of Nevada provide an opportunity for observing the mineralization sequences that cause buried wood to become permineralized. Oligocene and Miocene caldera basins contain abundant petrified wood that ranges in composition from incipient silicification to complete permineralization. Examination of specimens from 21 localities reveals that the petrifaction sequence can follow multiple pathways. Fossil wood specimens from a single stratum may have different mineralization; silicification may vary even within a single specimen. Despite these variations, several trends are evident. Features in Nevada specimens suggest that two fundamental processes are involved: early mineralization of cell walls, and later silica deposition in lumina, vessels, and rot pockets from groundwater that permeated these open spaces. The process of open-space filling may be analogous to the genesis of geodes and veins, where multiple episodes of hydrothermal precipitation may produce opal, chalcedony, and quartz as deposits within a single cavity. Silica polymorphs may coexist as primary precipitates, or they may originate from solid-state transformation of a single parent material. Relic lepisphere textures observed in some chalcedony wood specimens are evidence of opal→chalcedony transition. In Nevada, specimens that contain crystalline quartz, this mineral appears to have been formed by direct precipitation in open spaces, not from recrystallization of chalcedony. Opal-A has seldom been reported in fossil wood, but this amorphous material is fairly common in Nevada specimens. View Full-Text
Keywords: petrified wood; silica; opal; chalcedony; quartz; paleobotany; Nevada petrified wood; silica; opal; chalcedony; quartz; paleobotany; Nevada
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Mustoe, G.E. Late Tertiary Petrified Wood from Nevada, USA: Evidence of Multiple Silicification Pathways. Geosciences 2015, 5, 286-309.

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