Sedimentary Rocks Contain Clues to Ancient Environments

As climate changes over time, so do environments! For instance, at one time a region might contain a lake and river system, but millions of years later there may be no trace of water at all. The water may have left, but clues remain in the sediment that settled out of the water. These traces allow us to figure out what environments were like in the past!

Look below to see what different environments look like on the Earth today, and what environments leave behind in sedimentary rocks. Click on the pictures below to compare environments and the types of rocks that are made from them.

Environment Sediment Size What environments look like on the Earth today: What environments from long ago left behind in rock:
Lake Mud
Swamp Mud
Desert Dunes Sand
Alluvial Fan Sand and gravel
River Silt, sand, and gravel
Lagoon Mud
Beach Silt, sand, or gravel
Shallow Ocean Silt and sand
Deep Ocean Mud, with thin layers of sand or silt
Tropical Ocean Sediment made of Calcite (and other carbonate minerals)
Last modified January 6, 2004 by Lisa Gardiner.

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