Along the south shore of Chabot Reservoir, in the mudstone of the Joaquin Miller Formation, I spotted this exposure of tiny, enigmatic mineral crystals last year.
They’re sprinkled across what looks like a bedding surface in the mudstone. This shot shows an area just a couple inches across. Because I was just taking a walk, I didn’t have my hand lens with me and I didn’t try to bring some home, so this is all we have to work with until I, or someone else, finds the spot again.
A medical maxim that’s just as useful in geology is, “where you see hoofprints, look for horses and not zebras.”
Most of the time, large grains in a mudstone are quartz. The crystals are elongated and appear to be prisms with points, just like quartz. But the honey color appears to be part of the mineral and is most unusual for quartz. Any quartz in this rock would be detrital, not authigenic—by which I only mean that quartz would not grow here, but would come in with the other sediment that turned into this rock. And if it were detrital, it wouldn’t have this clean sparry shape. Instead it would be ordinary sand grains. So I’ve ruled out quartz.
My working hypothesis is that these are calcite crystals in the typical “dogtooth spar” shape that have grown here, or very near here. I could confirm that with a quick acid test, and one little tiny piece of a small puzzle would be clarified.