The tourmaline supergroup is a case in point. The IMA now recognizes at least 32 approved species of tourmaline with 8 more species pending , each with a different distribution of major elements among six of its crystallographic sites Henry et al. Given natural compositional variations, this classification means that an individual thin section may hold two or more different tourmaline species e. Indeed, individual grains that grow during a single magmatic or metamorphic event can display major element zoning that modulates among more than one tourmaline species.
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Note that it is also possible for an individual mineral grain to represent two natural kinds: a core of igneous tourmaline or zircon, for example, with a hydrothermally deposited rim. A division of tourmaline into natural kinds might thus provide a more parsimonious description of the supergroup and would facilitate a more accurate understanding of boron mineral diversity, distribution, and evolution Grew et al.
Similar splitting of natural kinds into many species occurs in the complex amphibole group with more than approved species Hawthorne et al.
Binary solid solutions, including ferromagnesian olivine, orthopyroxene, and many other examples, underscore the potentially artificial nature of classification based only on major element composition and crystal structure. Any rock that incorporates olivine grains with close to a ratio of Mg:Fe will likely technically contain two species, both forsterite Mg 2 SiO 4 and fayalite Fe 2 SiO 4 , even though all olivine grains arose from a single petrogenetic event.
Current conventions for recognizing rare earth element REE mineral species provide additional potential cases of splitting natural kinds. Similar arguments could be made for some of the multiplicity of species of almost 40 other REE mineral structures including Ce-, La-, Nd-, and Sm-dominant variants of florencite, a REE aluminum phosphate; Table 2.
In some cases, these split species represent a single natural kind with one stability field that incorporates yttrium and a range of light and heavy REE and thus one paragenetic mode.
In each of the above examples, the end-member compositions of diverse mineral structural groups are useful idealized thermodynamic constructs; the present IMA-approved mineral species should be retained as the primary systematic means to identify minerals. However, in studies of mineral evolution and mineral ecology, which are based on the diversity and distribution of minerals through time and space, this splitting of natural mineral kinds into multiple species obscures relationships that determine mineral co-occurrence in varied paragenetic environments. As in the case of splitting a single mineral species into two or more natural kinds, the lumping of several species into a single natural kind affects any estimates of total mineral diversity and distribution.
The definition of a mineral as a naturally occurring crystalline material is deeply ingrained, yet it arbitrarily excludes significant volumes of condensed planetary materials from formal mineralogical consideration. Volcanic glass, solidified silica gel, shungite, amber, composite materials such as coal and mixed-layer clays, and natural nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and buckeyballs are among the many potentially important condensed solid phases that may play key roles in our understanding of planetary evolution, yet which lie outside the purview of modern mineralogy Rogers ; Povarennykh ; Povarennykh et al.
This mineralogical requirement of crystallinity may lead to biases when attempting to understand deposits rich in amorphous and nanoscale materials.
Geology Introduction to Mineralogy
By expanding the classification of mineral kinds to consider a broader range of characteristic physical and chemical properties—i. Three significant challenges must be overcome to transform the concept of an evolutionary system of mineralogy into practical protocols for mineral classification: 1 creating extensive, reliable, and open-access mineral data resources; 2 applying diverse methods of cluster analysis to differentiate mineral natural kinds; and 3 developing a coherent and consistent nomenclature for mineral natural kinds.
Quantitative identification of natural mineral kinds e. Consequently, the mineralogical community needs to create an accurate and comprehensive tabulation of varied mineral attributes. The defining attributes will vary for different mineral species and groups, but will always include trace and minor elements. Each of these variables adds information that collectively has the potential to differentiate natural kinds through multi-dimensional analysis, and which might elucidate the origins and subsequent history of a mineral specimen in the context of planetary evolution.
Expanded mineral data resources on numerous specimens with many attributes are well suited for varied analytical approaches under the cluster analysis umbrella. In this endeavor, mineralogists can learn important lessons from other scientific disciplines that have embraced the classifications system based on natural kind clusters Boyd , ; Millikan Paleontologists and biologists have long employed the data-driven, cluster approach of morphometric analysis, for example, to distinguish superficially similar species from ontonogenic sequences Lohmann ; Bookstein ; Ashraf ; Turvey et al.
In this formalism, the key to recognizing distinct natural kinds is the collection and analysis of numerous individual specimens to obtain statistically meaningful distributions of traits related to size and shape. A revealing recent example is the application of cluster analysis to discern four major human personality types Gerlach et al.
Their study reveals both the promise and potential pitfalls of cluster analysis. They initially employed an unsupervised Gaussian mixture model, which led to an unreasonably large number of discrete clusters—a difficulty that can arise in cluster analysis if groups differ significantly in size Burnham and Anderson ; Lancichinetti et al. Gerlach et al. A similar strategy can be applied to the implementation of an evolutionary system of mineralogy, which must be predicated on the analysis and comparison of numerous specimens from different mineral-forming environments.
As with classifications in other domains, the recognition of mineral natural kinds will ultimately depend on the analytical comparison of large numbers of individual mineral descriptions, with richly varied information, data analysis, and visualization. A significant challenge lies in determining what constitutes a mineral cluster. Ambiguity arises because no one algorithm or set of criteria can be universally applied to discern optimal clustering Jain Experts in specific mineral species or groups must therefore supervise the application of cluster analysis, for example by selecting the most important attributes and constraining the total number of clusters.
Each natural kind should be defined by continuous ranges of multiple attributes that arise from a well-defined paragenetic process—ideally a combination of characteristics that do not overlap with those of any other mineral kind. Identifications of natural kinds, including both the lumping and the splitting of existing IMA species, is context dependent and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
For example, one researcher studying hydroxylapatite from the broad-brush perspective of billions of years of Earth history might choose to divide all specimens into three clusters: meteoritic, crustal, and biomineralized. By contrast, a biologist examining hydroxylapatite from a different evolutionary viewpoint might recognize multiple types of biomineralization with different kinds of bio-apatite in brachiopods, fish scales, cartilage, teeth, and bones Roy ; Onozato ; Ohirta ; Sherman The flexible, context-dependent nature of cluster analysis renders this approach ill-suited to be the primary classification system for minerals.
Nevertheless, recognition of distinct mineral kinds is essential if we are to understand how the mineralogy of planets evolves through a succession of physical, chemical, and biological processes. Unambiguous, standardized mineralogical nomenclature is essential. In spite of attempts to introduce systematic and rational approaches to mineralogical nomenclature e. The community of Earth scientists would be ill served by any system that adds layers of taxonomic obscurity on the existing scheme.
A logical solution in the case of an evolutionary system is to employ descriptive paragenetic modifiers to the existing IMA mineral names. In the case of diamond, for example, names for several natural kinds already exist. In the context of planetary evolution, recognizing and naming mineral natural kinds in this manner will enhance our ability to communicate stages of mineral evolution with clarity.
Finally, it is important to recognize that in the majority of instances, especially rare minerals with only one known mode of formation Hazen and Ausubel , natural mineral kinds will be exactly equivalent to IMA mineral species. Therefore, in most instances mineralogical nomenclature will require no modification.
An underlying assumption of this proposal is that complementary classification schemes of natural objects have the potential to reflect different aspects, and thus varied theories, of the natural world. The proposed evolutionary system of mineralogy, based on the complex range of attributes stemming from the paragenetic modes of minerals, represents a complementary classification that is particularly suited to revealing a deeper understanding of planetary evolutionary processes. Different natural mineral kinds arise at different evolutionary stages.
As we attempt to compare and contrast different terrestrial worlds, for example, Earth and Mars, it is insufficient to know the identities of idealized end-member mineral species. We must also understand the natural kinds of minerals, with their attendant implications for the dynamic histories of planets and moons. There is an appealing elegance in the existing system of classifying natural crystals as objects whose essence is captured in purely chemical and structural terms—whose idealized character is divorced from the sometimes messy context of the natural world.
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