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ABSTRACT

A consistent pattern for the silica sources, depositional environments and timing of chertification was observed in a diverse suite of five Late Mesozoic and Middle Palaeozoic carbonate sequences; the (1) Upper Greensand (Cretaceous) and (2) Portland Limestone (Jurassic) of southern England, (3) the Ramp Creek Formation (Mississippian) of southern Indiana, and the (4) lower Helderberg Group (Devonian) and (5) Onondaga Limestone (Devonian) of New York State. Nodular chert formation in all five limestone sequences occurred in sediments that were largely uncemented. Ghosts of pre-chertification carbonate cements are present in some chert nodules but are volumetrically minor. In every limestone sequence except the Upper Greensand, chertification occurred after burial to a depth sufficient for intergranular pressure solution and mechanical grain deformation of carbonate sand.

Nodular chert is most abundant in subtidal, normal marine wackestones and mudstones that were deposited at or below fair-weather wave base, and is absent or rare in supratidal, intertidal and high-energy subtidal limestones and dolomites. An intraformational sponge spicule silica source for chert nodules is suggested by direct evidence, such as calcitized sponge spicules in the host limestone, and circumstantial evidence, such as ghosts of sponge spicules in chert nodules and a correlation of chert abundance with depositional environment. Most molds of siliceous sponge spicules were apparently obliterated by post-chertification intergranular compaction. We propose that these general trends for the depositional environments, silica sources and timing of chertification are representative of most Mesozoic to Middle Palaeozoic platform limestones.