Coquina (//; Spanish: "cockle.") is a sedimentary rock that is composed either wholly or almost entirely of the transported, abraded, and mechanically-sorted fragments of the shells of either molluscs, trilobites, brachiopods, or other invertebrates. For a sediment to be considered to be a coquina, the particles composing it should average 2 mm or greater in size. Coquina can vary in hardness from poorly to moderately cemented. The term "coquina" is derived from the Spanish word for cockleshells or shellfish. Incompletely consolidated and poorly cemented coquinas are considered grainstones in the Dunham classification system for carbonate sedimentary rocks. A well-cemented coquina is classified as a biosparite according to the Folk classification of sedimentary rocks.
Coquinas accumulate in high-energy marine and lacustrine environments where currents and waves result in the vigorous winnowing, abrasion, fracturing, and sorting of the shells, which compose them. As a result, they typically exhibit well-developed bedding or cross-bedding, close packing, and good orientation of the shell fragments. The high-energy marine or lacustrine environments associated with coquinas include beaches, shallow submarine raised banks, swift tidal channels, and barrier bars.
Composition and distribution
Coquina is mainly composed of the mineral calcite, often including some phosphate, in the form of seashells or coral. Coquinas dating from the Devonian period through to the much more recent Pleistocene are a common find all over the world, with the depositional requirements to form a coquina being a common thing in many marine facies.
History and use
Occasionally quarried or mined and used as a building stone in Florida for over 400 years, coquina forms the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos, Saint Augustine. The stone makes a very good material for forts, particularly those built during the period of heavy cannon use. Because of coquina's softness, cannonballs would sink into, rather than shatter or puncture, the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos.
Sedgely Abbey, an 18th-century manor house once regarded as the grandest colonial residence on the lower Cape Fear River in North Carolina was built of locally quarried coquina. Once the centerpiece of a 1,000 acre (405 hectare) plantation that produced indigo and rice its name was derived from the ancient manor of Sedgely in Staffordshire. Located a half-mile north of Snow's Cut, directly across the river from Orton, the house was a two story, five bay, center hall, single pile, Georgian structure, with a chimney at each end. Although its builder and exact date of construction is unknown, it was described by local historian James Sprunt as similar in size and appearance to the brick mansion built in 1825 by Governor Dudley that still stands at 400 South Front Street in Wilmington. Like many southern plantations, Sedgely Abbey was abandoned and fell into disrepair after the Civil War. The vacant house was demolished in the 1870s and the coquina was made into fertilizer. A cellar carved into solid coquina was located during archaeological investigations on the site of the former plantation in the late 20th century.
When first quarried, coquina is extremely soft. This softness makes it very easy to remove from the quarry and cut into shape. However, the stone is also at first much too soft to be used for building. In order to be used as a building material, the stone is left out to dry for approximately one to three years, which causes the stone to harden into a usable, but still comparatively soft, form.
Coquina has also been used as a source of paving material. It is usually poorly cemented and easily breaks into component shell or coral fragments, which can be substituted for gravel or crushed harder rocks. Large pieces of coquina of unusual shape are sometimes used as landscape decoration.
Because coquina often includes a component of phosphate, it is sometimes mined for use as fertilizer.
Notable exposures of coquina
- Washington Oaks State Gardens, Flagler County, Florida
- Blowing Rocks Preserve (and along Country Club Road), Palm Beach County, Florida
- Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Western Australia
- Wenlock Limestone, Shropshire, England
- Kure Beach, New Hanover County, North Carolina
Coquina in architecture
- Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, Florida
- Fort Matanzas National Monument, Florida
- Bok Tower, Florida
- North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, displays a "Coquina Outcrop Touch Pool"
- U.S. Bureau of Mines Staff (1996) Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, & Related Terms. Report SP-96-1, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Bureau of Mines, Washington, D.C.
- Neuendorf, K.K.E., J.P. Mehl, Jr., and J.A. Jackson, J.A., eds. (2005) Glossary of Geology (5th ed.). Alexandria, Virginia, American Geological Institute. 779 pp. ISBN 0-922152-76-4
- Dunham, R.J. (1962). Classification of carbonate rocks according to depositional texture. In Ham, W. E.. Classification of carbonate rocks. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoir. no. 1, pp. 108-121.
- Folk, R.L. (1980) The Petrology of Sedimentary Rocks. Austin, Texas, Hemphill Publishing Company. 182 pp. ISBN 0-914696-14-9
- Scholle, P.A., D.G. Bebout, and C.H. Moore (1983) Carbonate Depositional Environments. Memoir no. 33. Tulsa, Oklahoma, American Association of Petroleum Geologists. 708 pp. ISBN 978-0-89181-310-1
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