Retrograde diagenesis, a widespread process on a regional scale

F. Nieto, M. Pilar Mata, B. Bauluz, G. Giorgetti, P. Árkai, D. R. Peacor

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Pelitic and basic rocks occurring within prograde sequences in Portugal, Spain and Hungary have been studied by X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The minerals formed in typical prograde reactions define the general sequences, but smectite, chlorite-smectite (corrensite) and/or berthierine were found to have replaced chlorite, whereas kaolinite and mixed-layer illite-smectite replaced illite-muscovite. Alteration occurred under conditions normally associated with diagenesis, subsequent to regional metamorphism, and we therefore refer to such processes with the term "retrograde diagenesis". In the cases studied and in other cited examples, reactions occurred on a regional basis via pervasive fluids under open-system conditions inferred to be related to tectonic stress. The observed alterations could generally not be inferred from XRD data, although the presence of pure smectite in sediments other than bentonite is suggestive of retrograde relations, especially where other minerals are consistent with a higher grade of diagenesis. Retrograde diagenesis is readily observed through imaging of textures by TEM, however. Textural features show that retrograde reactions are more common than generally assumed, and that care should be used in interpreting geological events where appropriate textural relations are not seen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalClay Minerals
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2005


  • Chlorite-smectite
  • Diagenesis
  • Illite-smectite
  • Regional metamorphism
  • Retrograde
  • SEM
  • TEM
  • XRD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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    Nieto, F., Mata, M. P., Bauluz, B., Giorgetti, G., Árkai, P., & Peacor, D. R. (2005). Retrograde diagenesis, a widespread process on a regional scale. Clay Minerals, 40(1), 93-104.