EENS 211

Earth Materials

Tulane University

Prof. Stephen A. Nelson

Types of Metamorphism & Metamorphic Textures & Structures

Metamorphism is defined as follows: 

The mineralogical and structural adjustment of solid rocks to physical and chemical conditions that have been imposed at depths below the near surface zones of weathering and diagenesis and which differ from conditions under which the rocks in question originated.

The word "Metamorphism" comes from the Greek:  meta = change, morph = form, so metamorphism means to change form.  In geology this refers to the changes in mineral assemblage and texture that result from subjecting a rock to conditions such pressures, temperatures, and chemical environments different from those under which the rock originally formed.

  • Note that Diagenesis is also a change in form that occurs in sedimentary rocks.  In geology, however, we restrict diagenetic processes to those which occur at temperatures below 200oC and pressures below about 300 MPa (MPa stands for Mega Pascals), this is equivalent to about 3 kilobars of pressure (1kb = 100 MPa).

  • Metamorphism, therefore occurs at temperatures and pressures higher than 200oC and 300 MPa.  Rocks can be subjected to these higher temperatures and pressures as they are  buried deeper in the Earth.  Such burial usually takes place as a result of tectonic processes such as continental collisions or subduction.

  • The upper limit of metamorphism occurs at the pressure and temperature where melting of the rock in question begins.  Once melting begins, the process changes to an igneous process rather than a metamorphic process.

Grade of Metamorphism

As the temperature and/or  pressure increases on a body of rock we say the rock undergoes prograde metamorphism or that the grade of metamorphism increases.   Metamorphic grade is a general term for describing the relative temperature and pressure conditions under which metamorphic rocks form.

  • Low-grade metamorphism takes place at temperatures between about 200 to 320oC, and relatively low pressure.  Low grade metamorphic rocks are generally characterized by an abundance of hydrous minerals.  With increasing grade of metamorphism, the hydrous minerals begin to react with other minerals and/or break down to less hydrous minerals.
  • High-grade metamorphism takes place at temperatures greater than 320oC and relatively high pressure.  As grade of metamorphism increases, hydrous minerals become less hydrous, by losing H2O, and non-hydrous minerals become more common.


Types of Metamorphism

Contact Metamorphism
Contact metamorphism occurs adjacent to igneous intrusions and results from high temperatures associated with the igneous intrusion.

Since only a small area surrounding the intrusion is heated by the magma, metamorphism is restricted to the zone surrounding the intrusion, called a metamorphic or contact aureole.  Outside of the contact aureole, the rocks are not affected by the intrusive event.  The grade of metamorphism increases in all directions toward the intrusion.  Because the temperature contrast between the surrounding rock and the intruded magma is larger at shallow levels in the crust where pressure is low, contact  metamorphism is often referred to as high temperature, low pressure metamorphism.  The rock produced is often a fine-grained rock that shows no foliation, called a hornfels.


Regional Metamorphism
Regional metamorphism occurs over large areas and generally does not show any relationship to igneous bodies.  Most regional metamorphism is accompanied by deformation under non-hydrostatic or differential stress conditions.  Thus, regional metamorphism usually results in forming metamorphic rocks that are strongly foliated, such as slates, schists, and gniesses.  The differential stress usually results from tectonic forces that produce compressional stresses in the rocks, such as when two continental masses collide. Thus, regionally metamorphosed rocks occur in the cores of fold/thrust mountain belts or in eroded mountain ranges.  Compressive stresses result in folding of  rock and thickening of the crust, which tends to push rocks to deeper levels where they are subjected to higher temperatures and pressures.


Cataclastic Metamorphism
Cataclastic metamorphism occurs as a result of mechanical deformation, like when two bodies of rock slide past one another along a fault zone.  Heat is generated by the friction of sliding along such a shear zone, and the rocks tend to be mechanically deformed, being crushed and pulverized, due to the shearing.  Cataclastic metamorphism is not very common and is restricted to a narrow zone along which the shearing occurred.


Hydrothermal Metamorphism
Rocks that are altered at high temperatures and moderate pressures by hydrothermal fluids are hydrothermally metamorphosed.  This is common in basaltic rocks that generally lack hydrous minerals.  The hydrothermal metamorphism results in alteration to such Mg-Fe rich hydrous minerals as talc, chlorite, serpentine, actinolite, tremolite, zeolites, and clay minerals. Rich ore deposits are often formed as a result of hydrothermal metamorphism.


Burial Metamorphism
When sedimentary rocks are buried to depths of several hundred meters, temperatures greater than 300oC may develop in the absence of differential stress.  New minerals grow, but the rock does not appear to be metamorphosed.  The main minerals produced are often the Zeolites.  Burial metamorphism overlaps, to some extent, with diagenesis, and grades into regional metamorphism as temperature and pressure increase.

Shock Metamorphism (Impact Metamorphism)
When an extraterrestrial body, such as a meteorite or comet impacts with the Earth or if there is a very large volcanic explosion, ultrahigh pressures can be generated in the impacted rock.  These ultrahigh pressures can produce minerals that are only stable at very high pressure, such as the SiO2 polymorphs coesite and stishovite.  In addition they can produce textures known as shock lamellae in mineral grains, and such textures as shatter cones in the impacted rock. 


Classification of Metamorphic Rocks

Classification of metamorphic rocks is based on mineral assemblage, texture, protolith, and bulk chemical composition of the rock. Each of these will be discussed in turn, then we will summarize how metamorphic rocks are classified.

In metamorphic rocks individual minerals may or may not be bounded by crystal faces. Those that are bounded by their own crystal faces are termed idioblastic. Those that show none of their own crystal faces are termed xenoblastic. From examination of metamorphic rocks, it has been found that metamorphic minerals can be listed in a generalized sequence, known as the crystalloblastic series, listing minerals in order of their tendency to be idioblastic. In the series, each mineral tends to develop idioblastic surfaces against any mineral that occurs lower in the series. This series is listed below:

  • rutile, sphene, magnetite
  • tourmaline kyanite, staurolite, garnet, andalusite
  • epidote, zoisite, lawsonite, forsterite
  • pyroxenes, amphiboles, wollastonite
  • micas, chlorites, talc, stilpnomelane, prehnite
  • dolomite, calcite
  • scapolite, cordierite, feldspars
  • quartz

This series can, in a rather general way, enable us to determine the origin of a given rock. For example a rock that shows euhedral plagioclase crystals in contact with anhedral amphibole, likely had an igneous protolith, since a metamorphic rock with the same minerals would be expected to show euhedral amphibole in contact with anhedral plagioclase.

Another aspect of the crystalloblastic series is that minerals high on the list tend to form porphyroblasts (the metamorphic equivalent of phenocrysts), although K-feldspar (a mineral that occurs lower in the list) may also form porphyroblasts. Porphyroblasts are often riddled with inclusions of other minerals that were enveloped during growth of the porphyroblast. These are said to have a poikioblastic texture.

Most metamorphic textures involve foliation. Foliation is generally caused by a preferred orientation of sheet silicates. If a rock has a slatey cleavage as its foliation, it is termed a slate, if it has a phyllitic foliation, it is termed a phyllite, if it has a shistose foliation, it is termed a schist. A rock that shows a banded texture without a distinct foliation is termed a gneiss. All of these could be porphyroblastic (i.e. could contain porhyroblasts).

A rock that shows no foliation is called a hornfels if the grain size is small, and a granulite, if the grain size is large and individual minerals can be easily distinguished with a hand lens.

Protolith refers to the original rock, prior to metamorphism.  In low grade metamorphic rocks,  original textures are often preserved allowing one to determine the likely protolith.  As the grade of metamorphism increases, original textures are replaced with metamorphic textures and other clues, such as bulk chemical composition of the rock, are used to determine the protolith.

Bulk Chemical Composition
The mineral assemblage that develops in a metamorphic rock is dependent on

  • The pressure and temperature reached during metamorphism

  • The composition of any fluid phase present during metamorphism, and

  • The bulk chemical composition of the rock.

Just like in igneous rocks, minerals can only form if the necessary chemical constituents are present in the rock (i.e. the concept of silica saturation and alumina saturation applies to metamorphic rocks as well).  Based on the mineral assemblage present in the rock one can often estimate the approximate bulk chemical composition of the rock.  Some terms that describe this general bulk chemical composition are as follows:

  • Pelitic.  These rocks are derivatives of aluminous sedimentary rocks like shales and mudrocks.  Because of their high concentrations of alumina they are recognized by an abundance of aluminous minerals, like clay minerals, micas, kyanite, sillimanite, andalusite, and garnet.

  • Quartzo-Feldspathic.  Rocks that originally contained mostly quartz and feldspar like granitic rocks and arkosic sandstones will also contain an abundance of quartz and feldspar as metamorphic rocks, since these minerals are stable over a wide range of temperature and pressure.  Those that exhibit mostly quartz and feldspar with only minor amounts of aluminous minerals are termed quartzo-feldspathic.

  • Calcareous.  Calcareous rocks are calcium rich.   They are usually derivatives of carbonate rocks, although they contain other minerals that result from reaction of the carbonates with associated siliceous detrital minerals that were present in the rock.  At low grades of metamorphism calcareous rocks are recognized by their abundance of carbonate minerals like calcite and dolomite.   With increasing grade of metamorphism these are replaced by minerals like brucite, phlogopite (Mg-rich biotite), chlorite, and tremolite.  At even higher grades anhydrous minerals like diopside, forsterite, wollastonite, grossularite, and calcic plagioclase.

  • Basic.  Just like in igneous rocks, the general term basic refers to low silica content.  Basic metamorphic rocks are generally derivatives of basic igneous rocks like basalts and gabbros.  They have an abundance of Fe-Mg minerals like biotite, chlorite, and hornblende, as well as calcic minerals like plagioclase and epidote.

  • Magnesian. Rocks that are rich in Mg with relatively less Fe, are termed magnesian.  Such rocks would contain Mg-rich minerals like serpentine, brucite, talc, dolomite, and tremolite.  In general, such rocks usually have an ultrabasic protolith, like peridotite, dunite, or pyroxenite.

  • Ferriginous. Rocks that are rich in Fe with little Mg are termed ferriginous.  Such rocks could be derivatives of Fe-rich cherts or ironstones. They are characterized by an abundance of Fe-rich minerals like greenalite (Fe-rich serpentine), minnesotaite (Fe-rich talc), ferroactinolite, ferrocummingtonite, hematite, and magnetite at low grades, and ferrosilite, fayalite, ferrohedenbergite, and almandine garnet at higher grades.

  • Manganiferrous. Rocks that are characterized by the presence of Mn-rich minerals are termed manganiferrous.  They are characterized by such minerals as Stilpnomelane and spessartine.


Classification of metamorphic rocks depends on what is visible in the rock and its degree of metamorphism. Note that classification is generally loose and practical such that names can be adapted to describe the rock in the most satisfactory way that conveys the important characteristics. Three kinds of criteria are normally employed. These are:

  1. Mineralogical - The most distinguishing minerals are used as a prefix to a textural term. Thus, a schist containing biotite, garnet, quartz, and feldspar, would be called a biotite-garnet schist. A gneiss containing hornblende, pyroxene, quartz, and feldspar would be called a hornblende-pyroxene gneiss. A schist containing porphyroblasts of K-feldspar would be called a K-spar porphyroblastic schist.

  2. Chemical - If the general chemical composition can be determined from the mineral assemblage, then a chemical name can be employed. For example a schist with a lot of quartz and feldspar and some garnet and muscovite would be called a garnet-muscovite quartzo-feldspathic schist. A schist consisting mostly of talc would be called a talc-magnesian schist.

  3. Protolithic -  If a rock has undergone only slight metamorphism such that its original texture can still be observed then the rock is given a name based on its original name, with the prefix meta- applied. For example: metabasalt, metagraywacke, meta-andesite, metagranite.

In addition to these conventions, certain non-foliated rocks with specific chemical compositions and/or mineral assemblages are given specific names. These are as follows:

  • Amphibolites: These are medium to coarse grained, dark colored rocks whose principal minerals are hornblende and plagioclase. They result from metamorphism of basic igneous rocks.  Foliation is highly variable, but when present the term schist can be appended to the name (i.e. amphibolite schist).

  • Marbles: These are rocks composed mostly of calcite, and less commonly of dolomite. They result from metamorphism of limestones and dolostones.  Some foliation may be present if the marble contains micas.

  • Eclogites: These are medium to coarse grained consisting mostly of garnet and green clinopyroxene called omphacite, that result from high grade metamorphism of basic igneous rocks. Eclogites usually do not show foliation.

  • Quartzites: Quartz arenites and chert both are composed mostly of SiO2.  Since quartz is stable over a wide range of pressures and temperatures, metamorphism of quartz arenites and cherts will result only in the recrystallization of quartz forming a hard rock with interlocking crystals of quartz.   Such a rock is called a quartzite.

  • Serpentinites:  Serpentinites are rocks that consist mostly of serpentine.  These form by hydrothermal metamorphism of ultrabasic igneous rocks.

  • Soapstones: Soapstones are rocks that contain an abundance of talc, which gives the rock a greasy feel, similar to that of soap.   Talc is an Mg-rich mineral, and thus soapstones from ultrabasic igneous protoliths, like peridotites, dunites, and pyroxenites, usually by hydrothermal alteration.

  • Skarns: Skarns are rocks that originate from contact metamorphism of limestones or dolostones, and show evidence of having exchanged constituents with the intruding magma.  Thus, skarns are generally composed of minerals like calcite and dolomite, from the original carbonate rock, but contain abundant calcium and magnesium silicate minerals like andradite, grossularite, epidote, vesuvianite, diopside, and wollastonite that form by reaction of the original carbonate minerals with silica from the magma.  The chemical exchange is that takes place   is called metasomatism.

  • Mylonites: Mylonites are cataclastic metamorphic rocks that are produced along shear zones deep in the crust.  They are usually fine-grained, sometimes glassy, that are streaky or layered, with the layers and streaks having been drawn out by ductile shear.

Metamorphic rocks exhibit a variety of textures.  These can range from textures similar to the original protolith at low grades of metamorphism, to textures that are purely produced during metamorphism and leave the rock with little resemblance to the original protolith.  Textural features of metamorphic rocks have been discussed in the previous lecture.  Here, we concentrate on the development of foliation, one of the most common  purely metamorphic textures, and on the processes involved in forming compositional layering commonly observed in metamorphic rocks.


is defined as a pervasive planar structure that results from the nearly parallel alignment of sheet silicate minerals and/or compositional and mineralogical layering in the rock. Most foliation is caused by the preferred orientation of phylosilicates, like clay minerals, micas, and chlorite.  Preferred orientation develops as a result of non-hydrostatic or differential stress acting on the rock (also called deviatoric stress).  We here review the differences between hydrostatic and differential stress.


Stress and Preferred Orientation
Pressure increases with depth of burial, thus, both pressure and temperature will vary with depth in the Earth.  Pressure is defined as a force acting equally from all directions.  It is a type of stress, called hydrostatic stress or uniform stress.  If the stress is not equal from all directions, then the stress is called a differential stress.  Normally geologists talk about stress as compressional stress.  Thus, if a differential stress is acting on the rock, the direction along which the maximum principal stress acts is called s1, the minimum principal stress is called s3, and the intermediate principal stress direction is called s2.   Note that extensional stress would act along the direction of minimum principal stress. 

diffstress.gif (11475 bytes)

If differential stress is present during metamorphism, it can have a profound effect on the texture of the rock. 
  • Rounded grains can become flattened in the direction of maximum compressional stress.
  • Minerals that crystallize or grow in the differential stress field may develop a preferred orientation. Sheet silicates and minerals that have an elongated habit will grow with their sheets or direction of elongation orientated perpendicular to the direction of maximum stress.  

    This is because growth of such minerals is easier along directions parallel to sheets, or along the direction of elongation and thus will grow along s3 or s2, perpendicular to s1.

    Since most phyllosilicates are aluminous minerals, aluminous (pelitic) rocks  like shales, generally develop a foliation as the result of metamorphism in a differential stress field.

  Example - metamorphism of a shale (made up initially of clay minerals and quartz)

    Shales have fissility that is caused by the preferred orientation of clay minerals with their {001} planes orientated parallel to bedding.   Metamorphic petrologists and structural geologists refer to the original bedding surface as S0.

origshalepet.gif (4631 bytes)
  • Slate  Slates form at low metamorphic grade by the growth of fine grained chlorite and clay minerals. The preferred orientation of these sheet silicates causes the rock to easily break planes parallel to the sheet silicates, causing a slatey cleavage.

    Note that in the case shown here, the maximum principle stress is oriented at an angle to the original bedding planes so that the slatey cleavage develops at an angle to the original bedding. The foliation or surface produced by this deformation is referred to S1.

slatepet.gif (16178 bytes)
  • Schist - The size of the mineral grains tends to enlarge with increasing grade of metamorphism.  Eventually the rock develops a near planar foliation caused by the preferred orientation of sheet silicates (mainly biotite and muscovite).  Quartz and feldspar grains, however show no preferred orientation.  The irregular planar foliation at this stage is called schistosity
schistpet.gif (14043 bytes)
  • Gneiss  As metamorphic grade increases, the sheet silicates become unstable and dark colored minerals like hornblende and pyroxene start to grow.

    These dark colored minerals tend to become segregated into distinct bands through the rock (this process is called metamorphic differentiation), giving the rock a gneissic banding.  Because the dark colored minerals tend to form elongated crystals,  rather than sheet- like crystals, they still have a preferred orientation with their long directions perpendicular to the maximum differential stress.

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  • Granulite - At the highest grades of metamorphism most of the hydrous minerals and sheet silicates become unstable and thus there are few minerals present that would show a preferred orientation.  The resulting rock will have a granulitic texture that is similar to a phaneritic texture in igneous rocks.
granulite.gif (7186 bytes)

In general, the grain size of metamorphic rocks tends to increase with increasing grade of metamorphism, as seen in the progression form fine grained shales to coarser (but still fine) grained slates, to coarser grained schists and gneisses.


Metamorphism and Deformation

Most regionally metamorphosed rocks (at least those that eventually get exposed at the Earth's surface) are metamorphosed during deformational events.  Since deformation involves the application of differential stress, the textures that develop in metamorphic rocks reflect the mode of deformation, and foliations or slatey cleavage that develop during metamorphism reflect the deformational mode and are part of the deformational structures. 

The deformation involved in the formation of fold-thrust mountain belts generally involves compressional stresses. The result of compressional stress acting on rocks that behave in a ductile manner (ductile behavior is favored by higher temperature, higher confining stress [pressure] and low strain rates) is the folding of rocks.  Original bedding is folded into a series of anticlines and synclines with fold axes perpendicular to the direction of maximum compressional stress.  These folds can vary in their scale from centimeters to several kilometers between hinges.  Note that since the axial planes are oriented perpendicular to the maximum compressional stress direction, slatey cleavage or foliation should also develop along these directions.   Thus, slatey cleavage or foliation is often seen to be parallel to the axial planes of folds, and is sometimes referred to axial plane cleavage or foliation.


Metamorphic Differentiation

As discussed above, gneisses, and to some extent schists, show compositional banding or layering, usually evident as alternating somewhat discontinuous bands or layers of dark colored ferromagnesian minerals and lighter colored quartzo-feldspathic layers.  The development of such compositional layering or banding is referred to as metamorphic differentiation.  Throughout the history of metamorphic petrology, several mechanisms have been proposed to explain metamorphic differentiation.

  1. Preservation of Original Compositional Layering.  In some rocks the compositional layering may not represent metamorphic differentiation at all, but instead could simply be the result of original bedding.  For example, during the early stages of metamorphism and deformation of interbedded sandstones and shales the compositional layering could be preserved even if the maximum compressional stress direction were at an angle to the original bedding.

    In such a case, a foliation might develop in the shale layers due to the recrystallization of clay minerals or the crystallization of other sheet silicates with a preferred orientation controlled by the maximum stress direction.

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    Here, it would be easy to determine that the compositional layers represented original bedding because the foliation would cut across the compositional layering.

    In highly deformed rocks that have undergone both folding and shearing, it may be more difficult to determine that the compositional layering represents original bedding. As shearing stretches the bedding, individual folded beds may be stretched out and broken to that the original folds are not easily seen.

sheartranspos.gif (13704 bytes)

    Similarly, if the rock had been injected by dikes or sills prior to metamorphism, these contrasting compositional bands, not necessarily parallel to the original bedding, could be preserved in the metamorphic rock. 

  1. Transposition of Original Bedding.  Original compositional layering a rock could also become transposed to a new orientation during metamorphism.  The diagram below shows how this could occur.  In the initial stages a new foliation begins to develop in the rock as a result of compressional stress at some angle to the original bedding.  As the minerals that form this foliation grow, they begin to break up the original beds into small pods.  As the pods are compressed and extended, partly by recrystallization, they could eventually intersect again to form new compositional bands parallel to the new foliation.

    transposbed.gif (43631 bytes)

  1. Solution and Re-precipitation. In fine grained metamorphic rocks small scale folds, called kink bands, often develop in the rock as the result of application of compressional stress. A new foliation begins to develop along the axial planes of the folds.  Quartz and feldspar may dissolve as a result of pressure solution and be reprecipitated at the hinges of the folds where the pressure is lower.  As the new foliation begins to align itself perpendicular to s1, the end result would be alternating bands of micas or sheet silicates and quartz or feldspar, with layering parallel to the new foliation.

tansposcrenulation.gif (25855 bytes)

  1. Preferential Nucleation.  Fluids present during metamorphism have the ability to dissolve minerals and transport ions from one place in the rock to another.

    Thus felsic minerals could be dissolved from one part of the rock and preferentially nucleate and grow in another part of the rock to produce discontinuous layers of alternating mafic and felsic compositions. 

diffusion.gif (7697 bytes)
  1. Migmatization.  As discussed previously, migmatites are small pods and lenses that occur in high grade metamorphic terranes that may represent melts of the surrounding metamorphic rocks.  Injection of the these melts into pods and layers in the rock could also produce the discontinuous banding often seen in high grade metamorphic rocks.  The process would be similar to that described in 4, above, except that it would involve partially melting the original rock to produce a felsic melt, which would then migrate and crystallize in pods and layers in the metamorphic rock.  Further deformation of the rock could then stretch and fold such layers so that they may no longer by recognizable as migmatites. 

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