what are stalactites and stalagmites

What are stalactites and stalagmites. We are sure that you have already heard both terms, and it is very likely that you have used them indiscriminately when referring to rock formations in a cave. But don’t worry, it is a common mistake and that is why today we will explain each one to you.

It must be remembered that this type of formations (Speleothems) originate from chemical precipitation. A phenomenon that converts the liquid fluids of the ceiling of the cave into solid material, which are; Stalactites and stalagmites.

Stalactite vs Stalagmite: main differences

  • Stalactites are formed from the dripping of mineral water on the roof of the caves. The stalagmites, for their part, are created thanks to the remains of calcite from the stalactites that fall on the ground.
  • In the chaos of stalactites, they have an internal conduit with mineral water, which guarantees their growth. Stalagmites do not have such a conduit, since they are sedimentary deposits.
  • Stalagmites have an irregular and oval shape, whereas stalactites have a conical and pointed structure, this being formed by the dripping of mineral water from their internal conduit.

Next, we leave you an explanatory video where all the differences between these two types of formations are detailed.

What are stalactites? what are stalactites and stalagmites

They are speleothems, which are formed through chemical precipitation, where water with various minerals will solidify. Once converted into solid material, it generally continues to grow thanks to the fact that water with minerals continues to circulate inside.

The calcite residues act as catalysts for the reaction, so that when the mineralized drop falls to the ground, it leaves behind calcite. This is responsible for giving rise to stalactite, which explains its characteristic conical shape.

Because water with calcite continues to circulate inside it, each time it drips, the stalactite will increase in size. And at the same time it will allow the formation in the soil of a new form of sediment; The stalagmite.

The shapes of stalactites are usually conical or pointed, something that at first glance differentiates them from other sedimentary formations. One fact to mention is that the main source of water for its formation comes from the rain.

What are stalagmites? what are stalactites and stalagmites

Like the previous ones, they are speleothems, but unlike those, these are formed on the ground thanks to the mineralized drops of stalactites. Reason why both types are usually seen located simultaneously in caves.

Stalagmites usually have an oval shape, or better said, less organized than stalactites, which are all conical in shape. Their irregular formation is due to the fact that they do not grow downward like stalactites, but rather upward.

Being calcium carbonate residue formation, it is not surprising that these have an irregular and thicker constitution compared to other types. On the other hand, they do not have a mineral water conduit as is the case with stalactites.

Stalagmites have a “softer” texture compared to stalactites, as well as having a “clayey” appearance as they are, as mentioned above, a deposit of calcite sediments.

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