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Metamorphic rocks

Metamorphic rocks started out as some other type of rock, but have been substantially changed from their original igneous, sedimentary, or earlier metamorphic form. Metamorphic rocks form when rocks are subjected to high heat, high pressure, hot, mineral-rich fluids or, more commonly, some combination of these factors. Conditions like these are found deep within the Earth or where tectonic plates meet.

In metamorphic rocks some or all of the minerals in the original rock are replaced, atom by atom, to form new minerals.

Folded gneiss
It's not hard to see that this metamorphic rock, called gneiss, has been intensely folded! This rock had to have been under very high pressure and temperature to allow it to fold like this without breaking. Photo by Edward P. Klimasauskas, USGS.

Metamorphic rocks are often squished, smeared out, and folded. Despite these uncomfortable conditions, metamorphic rocks do not get hot enough to melt, or they would become igneous rocks!

Foliated metamorphic rock

Foliation forms when pressure squeezes the flat or elongate minerals within a rock so they become aligned. These rocks develop a platy or sheet-like structure that reflects the direction that pressure was applied in. Slate, schist, and gneiss (pronounced 'nice') are all foliated metamorphic rocks.

Non-foliated metamorphic rock

Non-foliated metamorphic rocks do not have a platy or sheet-like structure. There are several ways that non-foliated rocks can be produced. Some rocks, such as limestone are made of minerals that are not flat or elongate. No matter how much pressure you apply, the grains will not align! Another type of metamorphism, contact metamorphism, occurs when hot igneous rock intrudes into some pre-existing rock. The pre-existing rock is essentially baked by the heat, changing the mineral structure of the rock without addition of pressure.

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