The term mudstone is also used to describe carbonate rocks (limestone or dolomite) that are composed predominantly of carbonate mud. However, in most contexts, the term refers to siliciclastic mudstone, composed mostly of silicate minerals.
No one definition of a mudstone has gained general acceptance, though there is wide agreement that mudstones are fine-grained sedimentary rocks, composed mostly of silicate grains with a grain size less than 0.063 millimetres (0.0025 in). Individual grains this size are too small to be distinguished without a microscope, which means that most classifications emphasize texture rather than mineral composition, and mudstones have historically received less attention from petrologists than have sandstones. The simplest definition is that a mudstone is a fine-grained clastic sedimentary rock that is not laminated or fissile. Most definitions also include a requirement that the rock contain significant amounts of both silt- and clay-sized grains. One common requirement is that a mudstone is a mudrock (a rock containing more than 50% silt- to clay-sized particles) in which between a third and two-thirds of the mud (silt and clay) fraction is clay particles. Another definition is that mudstone is a sedimentary rock in which neither silt, clay, nor coarser grains is predominant. Rock of this composition that does show laminations or fissility is sometimes described as mudshale rather than mudstone.
The lack of fissility or layering in mudstone may be due to either original texture or the disruption of layering by burrowing organisms in the sediment prior to lithification. Mudstone looks like hardened clay and, depending upon the circumstances under which it was formed, it may show cracks or fissures, like a sun-baked clay deposit.
A Mudstone: few small components in a micritic matrix, width of picture is 32 mm
In the Dunham classification (Dunham, 1962) system of limestones, a mudstone is defined as a mud-supported carbonate rock that contains less than 10% grains. Most recently, this definition has been clarified as a matrix-supported carbonate-dominated rock composed of more than 90% carbonate mud (<63 ?m) component.
The identification of carbonate mudstone
Thin section photomicrograph of carbonate mudstone
A recent study by Lokier and Al Junaibi (2016) has highlighted that the most common problems encountered when describing a mudstone is to incorrectly estimate the volume of 'grains' in the sample - in consequence, misidentifying mudstone as wackestone and vice versa. The original Dunham classification (1962) defined the matrix as clay and fine-silt size sediment <20 ?m in diameter. This definition was redefined by Embry & Klovan (1971) to a grain size of less than or equal to 30 ?m. Wright (1992) proposed a further increase to the upper limit for the matrix size in order to bring it into line with the upper limit for silt (63 ?m).
Mudstone mineralogy on Mars
Curiosity rover - mudstone mineralogy - 2013 to 2016 on Mars (CheMin; December 13, 2016) NOTE: JK for "John Klein", CB for "Cumberland". CH for "Confidence Hills", MJ for "Mojave", TP for "Telegraph Peak", BK for "Buckskin", OD for "Oudam", MB for "Marimba", QL for "Quela", and SB for Sebina. (For locations/drillings, see image)
^ abDunham, R.J., 1962. Classification of carbonate rocks according to depositional texture. In: W.E. Ham (Ed.), Classification of Carbonate Rocks. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoir. American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, Oklahoma, pp. 108-121.