What are the features of terrestrial lithographic/clastic sediment that indicate it was deposited into an oceanic as opposed to a terrestrial (e.g. fluvial or lacustrine) environment? How to tell whether a given siltstone bed was deposited in either environment?

  • $\begingroup$ Homework questions are expected to show some attempt to answer the question on your own. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ I'm studying this on my own, thanks, no one assigned homework. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ an example from Tulane U. EENS dept: "Fine grained clastics are deposited in non-agitated water, calm water, where there is little energy to continue to transport the small grains. Thus mudrocks form in deep water ocean basins and lakes." Nothing about differentiating oceanic vs. lacustrine deposition $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ and this from U. of Houston / Geophysics does not clarify: uh.edu/~geos6g/1330/sedrx.html $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ This might be useful Ocean Sediments $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


Although now rather dated, USGS Bulletin 1080 has a useful discussion of various lines of evidence that can be used to distinguish lacustrine from marine deposits. Looking at purely physical characteristics it is often assumed that spatially extensive, fine grained, laminated deposits are suggestive of the low energy, and potentially seasonally varying, environment of a lake, with oceanic environments having greater energy, so less uniformity. It is easy, however, to see that there are may exceptions to this simple classification.

Fossil evidence can be a conclusive identifying factor, but isn't always available. The presence of evaporite minerals is suggestive of closed lacustrine environments, but obviously coastal sabkha evaporites are common.

Carbon/Sulphur ratio have been suggested as an indicator, with pyrite more common in marine sediments.


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