Survival times of anomalous melt inclusions from element diffusion in olivine and chromite

Spandler, Carl, O'Neill, Hugh St.C., and Kamenetsky, V. S. (2007) Survival times of anomalous melt inclusions from element diffusion in olivine and chromite. Nature, 447 (7142). pp. 303-306.

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Abstract

The chemical composition of basaltic magma erupted at the Earth’s surface is the end product of a complex series of processes, beginning with partial melting and melt extraction from a mantle source and ending with fractional crystallization and crustal assimilation at lower pressures. It has been proposed that studying inclusions of melt trapped in early crystallizing phenocrysts such as Mg-rich olivine and chromite may help petrologists to see beyond the later-stage processes and back to the origin of the partial melts in the mantle^1,2. Melt inclusion suites often span a much greater compositional range than associated erupted lavas, and a significant minority of inclusions carry distinct compositions that have been claimed to sample melts from earlier stages of melt production, preserving separate contributions from mantle heterogeneities^1–4. This hypothesis is underpinned by the assumption that melt inclusions, once trapped, remain chemically isolated from the external magma for all elements except those that are compatible in the host minerals^1,2. Here we show that the fluxes of rare-earth elements through olivine and chromite by lattice diffusion are sufficiently rapid at magmatic temperatures to reequilibrate completely the rare-earth-element patterns of trapped melt inclusions in times that are short compared to those estimated for the production and ascent of mantle-derived magma^5,6 or for magma residence in the crust^7. Phenocryst-hosted melt inclusions with anomalous trace-element signatures must therefore form shortly before magma eruption and cooling. We conclude that the assumption of chemical isolation of incompatible elements in olivine- and chromite-hosted melt inclusions^1,2 is not valid, and we call for re-evaluation of the popular interpretation that anomalous melt inclusions represent preserved samples of unmodified mantle melts.

Item ID: 8547
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
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ISSN: 1476-4687
Funders: Australian Research Council
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2010 02:52
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040202 Inorganic Geochemistry @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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