Continuing with our previous theme “Sharkansas”, this week’s geo-pic is on Arkansas corals. Of course, corals don’t live in Arkansas today, but from about 480 million years ago, up until roughly 40 million years ago, coral would have been a fairly common sight in the natural state.
The picture above is of a tabulate coral: a now-extinct variety of colonial coral. Each hexagonal corallite chamber housed a simple, individual animal, called a polyp, that could protrude and retract to filter food from the water. The chambers in this fossil are in-filled with the mineral calcite, but that occurred after the coral died and was incorporated into the rock. It was photographed in the Ozark Plateaus, in the Prairie Grove Member of the Hale Formation.
Other varieties of coral are found in the rocks of Arkansas. For more views of Arkansas corals click here
Pictured above is an exposure of Prairie Grove Sandstone near Durham, Arkansas, southeast of Fayetteville. The ribbed, planar faces that are central in the photo resulted from a weathering phenomenon called zebra weathering.
Zebra weathering occurs in sandstones cemented with calcite – a soluble mineral. Calcite is common in marine sediment and, in the tidal environment where this rock was deposited, marine sediment mixed with insoluble sand from the continent. The ratio of marine sediment to sand changed continuously in that environment due to seasonal and climatic cycles. Today, the beds of sandstone weather at different rates depending on their calcite content. As the rock weathers, the sandier beds stand out in relief since they wear away more slowly than the soluble beds between them. Hence, the banded zebra pattern.