Pyrite in ammonite-bearing shales from the Jurassic of England and Germany



Pyrite occurs both in normal clays and shales with a benthic fauna (Oxford Clay, England, and Lias ε, Germany) and in highly bituminous shales (Lias ε, Germany). In normal shales it is present in small quantities as early framboids, but more conspicuously as internal moulds of fossils, especially ammonites. The pyrite in these is petrographically varied; several types of internal sediments and chamber linings are described and illustrated by reflected-light and scanning electron microscopy. Most striking are pyrite stalactites, suspended from the roofs of ammonite chambers, which were later filled by calcite or baryte. Pyrite formed in reducing micro-environments, while the sediment generally was not wholly anoxic. Most pyrite pre-dates compaction of sediment, breakage of fossils and solution of shell aragonite. Variable rates and conditions of reduction of sea water sulphate are reflected in δ34S values ranging from −55 to +44. Stalactites probably started to form when the ammonite chambers were partially gas-filled.

In the bituminous Lias ε shales pyrite occurs abundantly as early framboids and micro-nodules. Larger nodules show a variety of forms, some of which post-date compaction of the sediment. Pyrite is not associated with the abundant flattened ammonites. δ34S values in shales are grouped about a mode near −20. Pyrite formed over a long time-span, and throughout the sediment, not just in protected cavities.

Contrasts in pyrite types can be related to differing depositional environments and organic contents of the shales. Pyrite is an important mineral in diagenetic mineral parageneses which can be deduced by studying fossil void-fillings and concretions, and which help define the diagenetic history of a shale.