limestone, sedimentary rock wholly or in large part composed of calcium carbonate. It is ordinarily white but may be colored by impurities, iron oxide making it brown, yellow, or red and carbon making it blue, black, or gray. The texture varies from coarse to fine. Most limestones are formed by the deposition and consolidation of the skeletons of marine invertebrates; a few originate in chemical precipitation from solution. Limestone deposits are frequently of great thickness. The action of organic acids on underground deposits causes such formations as the Luray Caverns, the Carlsbad Caverns, and Mammoth Cave. Limestone is used as a flux in the extraction of iron, as an ingredient in Portland cement, as a source of lime (see calcium oxide), as a building stone, and for ornamentation. Among the important varieties of limestone are marl, chalk, oolite, travertine, dolomite, and marble.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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