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Keywords:

  • cave cones;
  • tower cones;
  • raft calcite;
  • hypogenic cave;
  • Sima de la Higuera Cave

ABSTRACT

In the present paper, we describe the genetic mechanism that causes the precipitation of raft cones in caves. These speleothems usually form in a hydrothermal and epiphreatic environment where dripwater, dripping repeatedly over the same spot, sinks calcite rafts that were floating on the water surface of a cave pool. In particular, the paper describes a new variety of raft cones that were recently discovered in the Paradise Chamber of the Sima de la Higuera Cave (Murcia, south-eastern Spain) based on their morphological and morphometric characteristics. These speleothems, dubbed ‘double-tower cones’, have a notch in the middle and look like two cones, one superimposed over the other. The genetic mechanism that gave rise to the double-tower cones must include an intermediate stage of rapid calcite raft precipitation, caused by a drop in the water table and by changes in cave ventilation leading to greater carbon dioxide (CO2) degassing and evaporation over the surface of the thermal lake where these speleothems formed. Calcite rafts were deposited in Paradise Chamber, completely covering many of the cones. Later, conditions for slower calcite raft precipitation were restored and some of the cones continued to grow at the same points. When the water table finally fell below the level of Paradise Chamber, the tower cones became exposed, as the incongruent deposits of calcite rafts were dissolved and mobilized to lower cave levels. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.