Cretaceous phosphorites from the onshore of Tamil Nadu have been investigated for their origin and compared with those in the offshore. Cretaceous phosphorites occur as light brown to yellowish brown or white nodules in Karai Shale of the Uttatur Group in the onshore Cauvery basin. Nodules exhibit phosphatic nucleus encrusted by a chalky shell of carbonate. The nucleus of the nodules consists of light and dark coloured laminae, phosphate peloids/coated grains and detrital particles interspersed between the laminae. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) studies reveal trapping and binding activity of microbial filaments. A mat structure with linearly arranged microbial filaments and hollow, cell-based coccoid cyanobacterial mat are present. Nodules contain abundant carbonate fluorapatite, followed by minor calcite, quartz and feldspar. The P2O5 content of the phosphorites ranges from 18 to 26%. The CaO/P2O5, Sr and F contents are higher than that of pure carbonate fluorapatite. Concentrations of Si, Al, K, Fe, and Ti are low. We suggest that the nuclei of the nodules represent phosphate clasts related to phosphate stromatolites formed at intertidal conditions. At high energy levels the microbial mats were disintegrated into phosphate clasts, coated with carbonate and then reworked into Karai Shale. On the other hand, Quaternary phosphorites occur as irregular to rounded, grey coloured phosphate clasts at water depths between 180 and 320m on the continental shelf of Tamil Nadu. They exhibit grain-supported texture. Despite Quaternary in age, they also resemble phosphate stromatolites of intertidal origin and reworked as phosphate clasts onto the shelf margin depressions. Benthic microbial mats probably supplied high phosphorus to the sediments. Availability of excess phosphorus seems to be a pre-requisite for the formation of phosphate stromatolites.
Volume 132, 2023
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