MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: are stalagtites and stalagmites found in all 4 types of caves?

Date: Wed Jan 28 08:33:58 2004
Posted By: Dave Clark, Staff, Chemical and Environmental Technologies, Battelle
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 1075010685.Es

The list of the four types of caves varies depending on who is making the 
list.  It always includes limestone (solution) caves, sea caves, and lava 
tubes.  The last category is sometimes ice caves, glacial caves, sandstone 
caves, or erosional caves.  Basically, the last category is for all the 
other caves that don't fit into one of the first three categories.

In any event, speleothems (all the cool formations including stalagtites 
and stalagmites) can form any time there is (or was in the past)water and 
a limestone source.  Solution caves are formed in limestone, so they 
almost always have cave formations, but if there were a limestone source 
and a source of water, then formations could also appear in 
erosional/sandstone caves, sea caves, or lava tubes as well.  Once the 
water dissolves some of the limestone by flowing through it, that 
limestone can deposit anywhere - including in any kind of cave.  The odds 
of this happening depend on the nearness of a limestone sources and the 
amount of water leaking through the rocks in that particular cave, the 
shape of the cave, the humidity, and a lot of other factors.

Very often you can actually see small stalagtites hanging down under 
concrete bridges where water leaking through the concrete does exactly the 
same kind of dissolving and depositing.

A couple good web sites with more information are givn below.

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