Major types of rocks and their characteristics



They are aggregates or physical mixture of one or more minerals. Minerals on the other hand are made up of two or more elements in a definite ratio. They have a definite chemical composition. Crust is made up of more than 2000 minerals, but out of these, 6 are the most abundant and contribute the maximum to this uppermost part of the earth. These are feldspar, quartz, pyroxenes, amphiboles, mica and olivine.
Rocks are of immense economic importance to us.
Rocks differ in their properties, size of particles and mode of formation. On the basis of mode of formation rocks may be grouped into three types:
(a) Igneous
(b) Sedimentary and
(c) Metamorphic

Igneous  Rocks

Igneous Rocks are formed by crystallization from a liquid, or magma. They include two types
Volcanic or extrusive igneous rocks form when the magma cools and crystallizes on the surface of the Earth
Intrusive or plutonic igneous rocks wherein the magma crystallizes at depth in the Earth.

Magma is a mixture of liquid rock, crystals, and gas. Characterized by a wide range of chemical compositions, with high temperature, and properties of a liquid.
On the basis of their mode of occurrence, igneous rocks can be classified as : extrusive or volcanic rocks and intrusive rocks.
(i) Extrusive igneous rocks are formed by cooling of lava on the earth’s surface. As lava cools very rapidly on coming out of the hot interior of the earth, the mineral crystals forming these rocks are very fine. These rocks are also called volcanic rocks. Gabbro and basalt are very common examples of such rocks. These rocks are found in volcanic areas. Deccan plateau’s regur soil in India is derived from lava.

(ii) Intrusive igneous rocks are formed when magma solidifies below the earth’s surface. The rate of cooling below the earth’ s surface is very slow which gives rise to formation of large crystals in the rocks. Deep seated intrusive rocks are termed as plutonic rocks and shallow depth intrusive rocks are termed as hypabyssal. Granite and dolerite are common examples of intru- sive rocks. From this point of view, therefore, igneous rocks can, in accor- dance with their mode of formation, be classified as (a) Plutonic, (b) Hyp- abyssal and (c) Volcanic rockmasses. The huge blocks of coarse granitic rocks are found both in the Himalaya and the Decean Plateau.


Sedimentary Rocks

Sedimentary rocks are formed by successive deposition of sediments. These sediments may be the debris eroded from any previously existing rock which may be igneous rock, metamorphic or old sedimentary rock. Sedimentary rocks have layered or stratified structure. The thickness of strata varies from few millimeters to several metres. So these rocks are also called stratified rocks. Generally, these rocks have some type of fossil between their strata. Fossil is the solid part or an impression of a prehistoric animal or plant embedded in strata of sedimentary rocks. Sedimentary rocks are widely spread on the earth surface but to a shallow depth.

The formation of sedimentary rocks involves five processes:

  1. Weathering – The first step is transforming solid rock into smaller fragments or dissolved ions by physical and chemical weathering as discussed in the last lecture.
    2. Erosion – Erosion is actually many process which act together to lower the surface of the earth. In terms of producing sediment, erosion begins the transpiration process by moving the weathered products from their original location. This can take place by gravity (mass wasting events like landslides or rock falls), by running water. by wind, or by moving ice. Erosion overlaps with transpiration.
    3. Transportation – Sediment can be transported by sliding down slopes, being picked up by the wind, or by being carried by running water in streams, rivers, or ocean currents. The distance the sediment is transported and the energy of the transporting medium all leave clues in the final sediment that tell us something about the mode of transportation.
    4. Deposition – Sediment is deposited when the energy of the transporting medium becomes too low to continue the transport process. In other words, if the velocity of the transporting medium becomes too low to transport sediment, the sediment will fall out and become deposited. The final sediment thus reflects the energy of the transporting medium.
    5. Lithification (Diagenesis) – Lithification is the process that turns sediment into rock. The first stage of the process is compaction. Compaction occurs as the weight of the overlying material increases. Compaction forces the grains closer together, reducing pore space and eliminating some of the contained water. Some of this water may carry mineral components in solution, and these constituents may later precipitate as new minerals in the pore spaces. This causes cementation, which will then start to bind the individual .

Metamorphic Rocks

Metamorphic rocks are formed under the influence of heat or pressure on sedimentary or igneous rocks. Tremendous pressure and high temperature change the colour, hard- ness, structure and composition of all types of pre-existing rocks. The process which bring about the change is known as Metamorphism and the ultimate products, formed due to operation of such processes are defined as the Metamrphic rocks.
Metamorphism refers to the changes in mineral assemblage and texture that result from subjecting a rock to pressures and temperatures different from those under which the rock originally formed.
The original rock that has undergone metamorphism is called the protolith. Protolith can be any type of rock .

Metamorphism occurs because rocks undergo changes in temperature and pressure and may be subjected to differential stress and hydrothermal fluids. Metamorphism occurs because some minerals are stable only under certain conditions of pressure and temperature. When pressure and temperature change, chemical reactions occur to cause the minerals in the rock to change to an assemblage that is stable at the new pressure and temperature conditions. But, the process is complicated by such things as how the pressure is applied, the time over which the rock is subjected to the higher pressure and temperature, and whether or not there is a fluid phase present during metamorphism. Different types of metamorphic rocks are found all over the world. In India, marble is found in Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, whereas slates are available in plenty in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana. In Kangra and Kumaun regions ]of Himalaya, slates of different colours are found.

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