An ornamented mudstone cavity, Boss Point Formation, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada: evidence for mud intrusion and rheoplasis



An ornamented, dome-shaped cavity, partially filled with mudstone, 4 m in diameter at its circular base and 1 m in height occurs in fluvial sandstone of the Carboniferous Boss Point Formation near Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. The cavity formed by differential weathering and erosion of the mudstone. Its origin is enigmatic though its size, shape and relationship to the underlying mudstone bed on which it rests suggest a diapiric origin for the mudstone that filled it. On the other hand, the ornamentation on the cavity surface includes flute moulds, suggesting an erosional origin for the domal structure.

Of the four principal hypotheses for its origin the one preferred by the authors involves formation by diapiric intrusion of semi-fluid mud into liquefied sand, soon after deposition. The ornamentation on the cavity surface would have formed as part of the intrusion process. Structures akin to flute moulds have been produced experimentally in support of this interpretation by differential flow across a cement-mix-mud interface in a flow box and also by diapiric intrusion of mud in a soft cement mix. By analogy the flute moulds on the cavity surface could have been formed in the same way. By this interpretation, primary sedimentary processes need not be invoked to explain their occurrence on either this cavity surface or on the numerous other mudstone cavity surfaces that are ubiquitous in the Permo-Carboniferous of eastern Canada. Results of this study have important implications with respect to the potential diversity of origins of flute moulds in general.