Cleavage (geology)
This article is about rock cleavage, for cleavage in minerals see Cleavage (crystal)
Cleavage (crystal)
Cleavage, in mineralogy, is the tendency of crystalline materials to split along definite crystallographic structural planes. These planes of relative weakness are a result of the regular locations of atoms and ions in the crystal, which create smooth repeating surfaces that are visible both in the...

Cleavage, in structural geology
Structural geology
Structural geology is the study of the three-dimensional distribution of rock units with respect to their deformational histories. The primary goal of structural geology is to use measurements of present-day rock geometries to uncover information about the history of deformation in the rocks, and...

 and petrology
Petrology is the branch of geology that studies rocks, and the conditions in which rocks form....

, describes a type of planar rock feature that develops as a result of deformation and metamorphism
Metamorphism is the solid-state recrystallization of pre-existing rocks due to changes in physical and chemical conditions, primarily heat, pressure, and the introduction of chemically active fluids. Mineralogical, chemical and crystallographic changes can occur during this process...

. The degree of deformation and metamorphism along with rock type determines the kind of cleavage feature that develops. Generally these structures are formed in fine grained rocks composed of minerals affected by pressure solution
Pressure solution
In structural geology and diagenesis, pressure solution or pressure dissolution is a deformation mechanism that involves the dissolution of minerals at grain-to-grain contacts into an aqueous pore fluid in areas of relatively high stress and either deposition in regions of relatively low stress...


Cleavage is a type of rock foliation
Foliation (geology)
Foliation is any penetrative planar fabric present in rocks. Foliation is common to rocks affected by regional metamorphic compression typical of orogenic belts. Rocks exhibiting foliation include the standard sequence formed by the prograde metamorphism of mudrocks; slate, phyllite, schist and...

, a fabric
A fabric is a textile material, short for "textile fabric".Fabric may also refer to:*Fabric , the spatial and geometric configuration of elements within a rock*Fabric , a nightclub in London, England...

 element that describes the way planar features develop in a rock. Foliation is separated into two groups primary and secondary. Primary deals with igneous and sedimentary rocks while secondary deals with rocks that undergo metamorphism as a result of deformation. Cleavage is a type of secondary foliation associated with fine grained rocks. For coarser grained rocks, schist
The schists constitute a group of medium-grade metamorphic rocks, chiefly notable for the preponderance of lamellar minerals such as micas, chlorite, talc, hornblende, graphite, and others. Quartz often occurs in drawn-out grains to such an extent that a particular form called quartz schist is...

osity is used to describe secondary foliation.

There is a variety of definitions for cleavage which may cause confusion and debate. The terminology used in this article is based largely on Passchier and Trouw (2005). They state that cleavage is a type of secondary foliation in fine grained rocks characterized by planar fabric elements that form in a preferred orientation. Some authors chose to use cleavage when describing any form of secondary foliation.

Types of cleavage

The presence of fabric elements such as preferred orientation of platy or elongate minerals, compositional layering, grain size variations, etc. determines what type of cleavage forms. Cleavage is categorized as either continuous or spaced.

Continuous Cleavage

Continuous or penetrative cleavage describes fine grained rocks consisting of platy minerals evenly distributed in a preferred orientation. The type of continuous cleavage that forms depends on the minerals present. Undeformed platy minerals such as micas and amphiboles align in a preferred orientation, and minerals such as quartz or calcite deform into a grain shape preferred orientation. Continuous cleavage is scale dependent, so a rock with a continuous cleavage on a microscopic level could show signs of spaced cleavage when observed on a macroscopic level.

Slaty Cleavage

Since the nature of cleavage is dependent on scale, slaty cleavage is defined as having 0.01 mm or less of space occurring between layers. Slaty cleavage often occurs after diagenesis
In geology and oceanography, diagenesis is any chemical, physical, or biological change undergone by a sediment after its initial deposition and during and after its lithification, exclusive of surface alteration and metamorphism. These changes happen at relatively low temperatures and pressures...

 and is the first cleavage feature to form after deformation begins. The tectonic strain must be enough to allow a new strong foliation to form, i.e. slaty cleavage.

Spaced Cleavage

Spaced Cleavage occurs in rocks with minerals that are not evenly distributed and as a result the rock forms discontinuous layers or lenses of different types of minerals. Spaced cleavage contains two types of domains; cleavage domains and microlithons. Cleavage domains are planar boundaries subparallel to the trend of the domain, and microlithons are bounded by the cleavage domains. Spaced cleavages can be categorized based on whether the grains inside the microlithons are randomly oriented or contain microfolds from a previous foliation fabric. Other descriptions for spaced cleavages include the spacing size, the shape and percentage of cleavage domains, and the transition between cleavage domains and microlithons.

Crenulation Cleavage

Crenulation cleavage contains microlithons that were folded by a previous foliation. Folding occurs when there are multiple phases of deformation, the latter one causes symmetric or asymmetric microfolds that deform previous foliations. The type of crenulation cleavage pattern that forms depends on lithology and degree of deformation and metamorphism.

Disjunctive Cleavage

Disjunctive cleavage describes a type of spaced cleavage where the microlithons are not deformed into microfolds, and formation is independent from any previous foliation present in the rock. A common outdated term for disjunctive cleavage is fracture cleavage. It is recommended that this term be avoided because of the tendency to misinterpret the formation of a cleavage feature.

Transposition Cleavage

When an older cleavage foliation is erased and replaced by a younger foliation due to stronger deformation and is evidence for multiple deformation events.


The development of cleavage foliation involves a combination of various mechanisms dependent on the rocks composition, tectonic processes, and metamorphic conditions. The magnitude and orientation of stress coupled with pressure and temperature conditions determine how a mineral is deformed. Cleavages form approximately parallel to the X-Y plane of tectonic strain and are categorized based on the type of strain. The mechanisms currently believed to control cleavage formation are rotation of mineral grains, solution transfer, dynamic recrystallization
Dynamic recrystallization
Dynamic recrystallization is a type of recrystallization process, found within the field of metallurgy. In dynamic recrystallization, as opposed to static recrystallization, the nucleation and growth of new grains occurs during deformation rather than afterwards as part of a separate heat...

, and static recrystallization.

Mechanical rotation of grains

During ductile deformation, mineral grains with a high aspect ratio are likely to rotate so that their mean orientation is in the same direction as the XY plane of finite strain. Mineral grains may fold if oriented perpendicular to shortening direction.

Solution Transfer

Cleavage foliations may result due to stress-induced solution transfer by the redistribution of inequant mineral grains by pressure solution and recrystallization. This would also help to increase rotation of elongate and tabular mineral grains. Mica grains undergoing solution transfer will align in a preferred orientation. If the minerals grains affected by pressure solution are deformed through plastic crystal processes, the grain will be extended along the XY-plane of finite strain. This process shapes grains into a preferred orientation

Dynamic recrystallization

Dynamic recrystallization
Dynamic recrystallization
Dynamic recrystallization is a type of recrystallization process, found within the field of metallurgy. In dynamic recrystallization, as opposed to static recrystallization, the nucleation and growth of new grains occurs during deformation rather than afterwards as part of a separate heat...

 occurs when a rock undergoes metamorphic conditions and reequilibrium of a minerals chemical composition. This happens when there is a decrease in free energy
Thermodynamic free energy
The thermodynamic free energy is the amount of work that a thermodynamic system can perform. The concept is useful in the thermodynamics of chemical or thermal processes in engineering and science. The free energy is the internal energy of a system less the amount of energy that cannot be used to...

 stored in deformed grains. Deformed micas can store a sufficient amount of strain energy that can allow recrystallization to occur. This process allows oriented regrowth of both old and new minerals into the damaged crystal lattice during cleavage development.

Static recrystallization

This process occurs either after deformation or in the absence of dynamic deformation. Depending on the intensity of heat during recrystallization, the foliation will either be strengthened or weakened. If the heat is too intense, foliation will be weakened due to the nucleation and growth of new randomly oriented crystals and the rock will become a hornfels
Hornfels is the group designation for a series of contact metamorphic rocks that have been baked and indurated by the heat of intrusive igneous masses and have been rendered...

. If minimal heat is applied to a rock with a preexisting foliation and without a change in mineral assemblage, the cleavage will be strengthened by growth of micas parallel to foliation.

Relationship to Folds

Cleavages display a measurable geometric relationship with the axial plane of folds developed during deformation and is referred to as axial planar foliations. The foliations are symmetrically arranged with respect to the axial plan depending on the composition and competency of a rock. For example, when mixed sandstone and mudstone sequences are folded during very-low to low grade metamorphism, cleavage forms parallel to the fold axial plane, particularly in the clay-rich parts of the sequence. In folded alternations of sandstone and mudstone the cleavage has a fan-like arrangement, divergent in the mudstone layers and convergent in the sandstones. This is thought to be because the folding is controlled by buckling of the stronger sandstone beds with the weaker mudstones deforming to fill the intervening gaps. The result is a feature referred to as foliation fanning.

Engineering considerations

In geotechnical engineering
Geotechnical engineering
Geotechnical engineering is the branch of civil engineering concerned with the engineering behavior of earth materials. Geotechnical engineering is important in civil engineering, but is also used by military, mining, petroleum, or any other engineering concerned with construction on or in the ground...

 a cleavage plane forms a discontinuity
Discontinuity (geotechnical engineering)
A discontinuity in geotechnical engineering is a plane or surface that marks a change in physical or chemical characteristics in a soil or rock mass. A discontinuity can be, for example, a bedding, schistosity, foliation, joint, cleavage, fracture, fissure, crack, or fault plane...

 that may have a large influence on the mechanical behavior (strength, deformation, etc.) of rock masses in, for example, tunnel
A tunnel is an underground passageway, completely enclosed except for openings for egress, commonly at each end.A tunnel may be for foot or vehicular road traffic, for rail traffic, or for a canal. Some tunnels are aqueducts to supply water for consumption or for hydroelectric stations or are sewers...

, foundation, or slope
Slope stability analysis
The slope stability analyses are performed to assess the safe and economic design of a human-made or natural slopes and the equilibrium conditions. The term slope stability may be defined as the resistance of inclined surface to failure by sliding or collapsing...

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