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A dike or dyke in geology is a sheet of rock that formed in a crack in a pre-existing rock body. However, when the crack is between the layers in a layered rock, it is called a sill, not a dike. It is a type of tabular or sheet intrusion, that either cuts across layers in a planar wall rock structures, or into a layer or unlayered mass of rock.
Dikes can therefore be either intrusive or sedimentary in origin. For example, when molten rock intrudes into a crack then crystallizes, it is an igneous dike. When sediment fills a pre-existing crack, it is a sedimentary dike.
An intrusive dike is an igneous body with a very high aspect ratio, which means that its thickness is usually much smaller than the other two dimensions. Thickness can vary from sub-centimetre scale to many metres, and the lateral dimensions can extend over many kilometres. A dike is an intrusion into an opening cross-cutting fissure, shouldering aside other pre-existing layers or bodies of rock; this implies that a dike is always younger than the rocks that contain it. Dikes are usually high-angle to near-vertical in orientation, but subsequent tectonic deformation may rotate the sequence of strata through which the dike propagates so that the dike becomes horizontal. Near-horizontal, or conformable intrusions, along bedding planes between strata are called intrusive sills.
Sometimes dikes appear in swarms, consisting of several to hundreds of dikes emplaced more or less contemporaneously during a single intrusive event. The world's largest dike swarm is the Mackenzie dike swarm in the Northwest Territories, Canada.
Dikes can vary in texture and their composition can range from diabase or basaltic to granitic or rhyolitic, but on a global perspective the basaltic composition prevails, manifesting ascent of vast volumes of mantle-derived magmas through fractured lithosphere throughout Earth history. Pegmatite dikes comprise extremely coarse crystalline granitic rocks - often associated with late-stage granite intrusions or metamorphic segregations. Aplite dikes are fine-grained or sugary-textured intrusives of granitic composition.
Sedimentary dikes or clastic dikes are vertical bodies of sedimentary rock that cut off other rock layers. They can form in two ways:
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