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Petrology and geochemistry of pyroxenites from the Cabo Ortegal Complex, Spain

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posted on 2023-03-16, 02:53 authored by Romain TilhacRomain Tilhac

Mafic lithologies such as pyroxenites play a major role in the development of chemical heterogeneity in the upper mantle and in the recycling of elements between the deep Earth and its external envelopes. Pyroxenites are notably involved in the differentiation of primitive arc magmas whose genesis has had a major impact on continent formation in post-Archean times, but the rarity of exposures of deep arc sections limits our understanding of the details of melt migration and melt-rock interaction. In the Variscan suture of north-western Iberia, the Herbeira massif of the Cabo Ortegal Complex represents a unique km-scale section of sub-arc mantle harzburgites exposing abundant pyroxenites associated with dunites and chromitites. However, the processes responsible for their abundance and geochemical characteristics are not well established, notably due to a particularly complex tectonothermal history.

This work combines new field and petrographic observations with the characterization of major-, trace-element and radiogenic-isotope (Sr, Nd, Hf and Os) compositions of these pyroxenites. After constraining the effects of secondary processes by studying small-scale heterogeneities, it is shown that the low-Al content of pyroxenes, the high abundance of compatible elements and the absence of plagioclase are related to primitive hydrous parental melts. Olivine websterites and clinopyroxenites preserving dunite lenses (type 1, and their foliated type-3 products) record the partial replacement of peridotites at decreasing melt/rock ratios, following intrusion of picritic melts at relatively low pressure (< 1.2 GPa), potentially within an arc root. Massive websterites (type 2) represent the final products of this reaction at higher melt/rock ratios, potentially as veins and dykes crystallized from boninitic melts differentiated from the initial picritic melts. Interaction between these Si-rich melts and dunites produced rare opx-rich websterites (type 4) with Cr-rich spinels. Chromatographic reequilibration accompanied the late-magmatic crystallization of amphibole from migrating or trapped residual melts, producing a range of REE patterns from spoon-shaped to strongly LREE-enriched, consistent with increasingly unradiogenic Nd compositions. Particularly high CaO/Al2O3 and the selective enrichment of LILE/HFSE in Cabo Ortegal pyroxenites suggest the generation of their Ca-rich parental melts via low-degree, second-stage melting of a refractory lherzolite at < 2 GPa, following percolation of slab-derived fluids and/or carbonatite melts. Radiogenic- isotope systematics indicate the involvement of an old metasomatized mantle domain, suggesting the reworking of a continental margin during this arc magmatism, and of recycled sediments. Their geochronology suggests that Cabo Ortegal pyroxenites formed at around II 500 Ma, which implies that previously reported ages around 390 Ma probably correspond to a metamorphic event.  

Pyroxenites and their host peridotites then recorded the development of sheath folds and mylonites following high-temperature deformation. We suggest that this episode corresponds to the delamination of the arc root associated with prograde metamorphism peaking at 1.6-1.8 GPa and 780-800°C, as recorded by undeformed garnet coronas around spinel. Exhumation of the arc root after its intrusion into a subduction zone was accompanied by hydration, as suggested by abundant post-kinematic amphibole, and by addition of S and mobilization of Re, as suggested by Os-isotope systematics and the association of amphibole and abundant base-metal sulfides. The Cabo Ortegal Complex may thus preserve a unique example of delaminated arc root, bearing evidence of the role of melt-peridotite interaction during the differentiation of primitive arc magmas at depth.


Table of Contents

Chapter I. General Introduction -- Chapter II. Geodynamic and Geological Background -- Chapter III. Structural and Textural Relationships -- Chapter IV. Major- and Trace-Element Geochemistry -- Chapter V. Radiogenic-Isotope Geochemistry and Geochronology -- Chapter VI. Discussion -- Chapter VII. General Conclusions -- References -- Appendices


Cotutelle thesis in conjunction with Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Engineering, Macquarie University, Australia and Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France ADDITIONAL SUPERVISOR 3: Michel Grégoire, ADDITIONAL SUPERVISOR 4: Georges Ceuleneer ADDITIONAL SUPERVISOR 5: Damien Guillaume

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Sue O’Reilly

Additional Supervisor 1

Bill Griffin

Additional Supervisor 2

Norm Pearson


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




532 pages

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