Universal shapes? Analysis of the shape of Antarctic tafoni

Rob Inkpen, Kevin Hall

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Using dimensional data from over 700 tafoni in Antarctica, this paper identifies how the dimensionless ratios of width/length (W/L) and depth/length (D/L) vary with tafoni length. The analysis suggests that these ratios do tend to converge to values that are similar to those found for fragments produced by brittle fracture and fragmentation. Dividing the data into quintiles and deciles, it is possible to assess how tafoni size and shape change as tafoni length increases. Smaller tafoni do tend to have a rounder plan form which rapidly changes as tafoni length increases towards the W/L ratio of 0.67. It is suggested that initial tafoni development is limited by the conditions set out in a recent mathematical model of tafoni development. This model focuses on tafoni development through the interactions of variable rock strength and the varying concentration gradient of a corrosive agent. Erosion involves the removal of relatively small sections of rock and is analogous to a continuous erosional process. This model produces tafoni of relatively circular plan form. Above a certain tafoni length it is suggested that processes associated with brittle fracture begin to dominant the development and shape of tafoni.
Original languageEnglish
Article number154
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2019


  • weathering
  • tafoni modelling
  • brittle fracture
  • fragmentation
  • ratios


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