The formation of ooids



Field and laboratory studies suggest that different types of ooids form during quiet and agitated water conditions. Both types have been synthesized in the laboratory. Quiet water types exhibit a radial orientation of carbonate crystals, whereas in those formed in agitated conditions, a tangential orientation is prevalent.

Successful laboratory formation of quiet water ooids was accomplished in supersaturated seawater solutions containing humic acids. Negative results were obtained from strictly inorganic solutions, and from those containing simple amino acids, single proteins, mixtures of proteins or mucopolysaccharides, soil and sediment extracts. Partly successful results were obtained using an organic extract from Bahamian ooids. The organic parameters most important in quiet water ooid formation are molecular weight, the presence of carboxyl groups and an ability to participate in hydrophobic/hydrophilic interactions, all of which are critical to membrane formation. Membranes form concentric shells which act as growth surfaces for carbonate and also induce the periodicity in carbonate precipitation.

Ooids exhibiting a tangential orientation of batten-like crystals have been synthesized under conditions of agitation, supersaturation and without the intervention of organic processes during the precipitation. Complete growth may be divided into agitation, resting and sleeping stages In the agitation stage, quartz nuclei induce an inorganic, heterogeneous nucleation from a supersaturated solution, which finally ceases as a result of Mg2+ and possibly H+ poisoning of the carbonate surfaces. No further precipitation occurs until the crystal surfaces are reactivated by removal of Mg2+ and H+ during the resting stage. Following a series of agitation and resting stages, precipitation is inhibited by a degree of poisoning which is not totally removed during the resting stage. For further growth, a new substrate is required and is provided by the development of organic membranes around the grains. This occurs when the grains are buried in the subsurface, the period of organic growth constituting the sleeping stage. Only 2% of an ooid's life is spent growing in the agitated environment, while 95% of its life is spent accreting organic membranes in the subsurface.

Our experimental work indicates that ooids of Bahamian type are inorganic precipitates. The tangential arrangement of battens is the result of suspension in an environment where the degree of turbulence is sufficient to induce grain to grain contact of sufficient strength and frequency to inhibit any crystal growth other than tangential. The role of organics is to provide a substrate for further growth after precipitation has slowed to a point when no further accretion is occurring.