Incrustation pseudomorph

Pseudomorph

[soo-duh-mawrf]
In geology, a pseudomorph is a mineral compound resulting from a substitution process in which the appearance and dimensions remain constant, but the mineral which makes up the chief component of the compound is replaced by another. The name literally means "false form".

Three kinds of pseudomorph exist:

An infiltration pseudomorph is a pseudomorph in which one mineral or other material is replaced by another. The original shape of the mineral remains unchanged, but color, hardness, and other properties change to those of the replacing mineral. An example of this process (also called substitution) is the replacement of wood by silica (quartz or opal) to form petrified wood in which the substitution may be so perfect as to retain the original cellular structure of the wood. An example of mineral-to-mineral substitution is replacement of aragonite twin crystals by native copper, as occurs at Corococo, Bolivia.

A variety of infiltration or substitution pseudomorphism is called alteration, in which only partial replacement occurs. This happens typically when a mineral of one composition changes by chemical reaction to another of similar composition, retaining the original crystalline shape. An example is a change from galena, lead sulfide, to anglesite, lead sulfate. The resulting pseudomorph may contain an unaltered core of galena surrounded by anglesite that has the cubic crystal shape of galena.

A paramorph (also called allomorph) is a mineral changed on the molecular level only. It has the same chemical composition, but with a different structure. The mineral looks identical to the original unaltered form. This occurs, as an example, in the aragonite to calcite change.

An incrustation pseudomorph results from a process by which a mineral is coated by another and the encased mineral dissolves. The encasing mineral remains intact, and retains the shape of the original mineral or material. Alternatively, another mineral may fill the space (the mold) previously occupied by some other mineral or material.

Pseudomorphs are also common in paleontology. Fossils are often formed by pseudomorphic replacement of the remains by mineral matter. Examples would include petrified wood and pyritized gastropod shells.

Terminology for pseudomorphs is "replacer after original", as in brookite after rutile.

References

  • Dana's Manual of Mineralogy by Cornelis S. Hurlbut, Eighteenth Edition, (1971, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) ISBN 0-471-42225-8

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