The Elements of Geology eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 384 pages of information about The Elements of Geology.
grains of the Chemung sandstones are not those which would result from mechanical disintegration, as by frost on high mountain peaks, but are rather those which would be left from the long chemical decay of siliceous crystalline rocks; for the more soluble minerals are largely wanting.  The red color of much of the deposits points to the same conclusion.  Red residual clays accumulated on the mountain sides and upland summits, and were washed as ocherous silt to mingle with the delta sands.  The iron-bearing igneous rocks of the oldland also contributed by their decay iron in solution to the rivers, to be deposited in films of iron oxide about the quartz grains of the Chemung sandstones, giving them their reddish tints.


Plants.  The lands were probably clad with verdure during Silurian times, if not still earlier; for some rare remains of ferns and other lowly types of vegetation have been found in the strata of that system.  But it is in the Devonian that we discover for the first time the remains of extensive and luxuriant forests.  This rich flora reached its climax in the Carboniferous, and it will be more convenient to describe its varied types in the next chapter.

RHIZOCARPS.  In the shales of the Devonian are found microscopic spores of rhizocarps in such countless numbers that their weight must be reckoned in hundreds of millions of tons.  It would seem that these aquatic plants culminated in this period, and in widely distant portions of the earth swampy flats and shallow lagoons were filled with vegetation of this humble type, either growing from the bottom or floating free upon the surface.  It is to the resinous spores of the rhizocarps that the petroleum and natural gas from Devonian rocks are largely due.  The decomposition of the spores has made the shales highly bituminous, and the oil and gas have accumulated in the reservoirs of overlying porous sandstones.

Invertebrates.  We must pass over the ever-changing groups of the invertebrates with the briefest notice.  Chain corals became extinct at the close of the Silurian, but other corals were extremely common in the Devonian seas.  At many places corals formed thin reefs, as at Louisville, Kentucky, where the hardness of the reef rock is one of the causes of the Falls of the Ohio.

Sponges, echinoderms, brachiopods, and mollusks were abundant.  The cephalopods take a new departure.  So far in all their various forms, whether straight, as the Orthoceras, or curved, or close-coiled as in the nautilus, the septum, or partition dividing the chambers, met the inner shell along a simple line, like that of the rim of a saucer.  There now begins a growth of the septum by which its edges become sharply corrugated, and the suture, or line of juncture of the septum and the shell, is thus angled.  The group in which this growth of the septum takes place is called the Goniatite (Greek GONIA, angle).

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The Elements of Geology from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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