Infiltration of refractory melts into the lowermost oceanic crust: evidence from dunite- and gabbro-hosted clinopyroxenes in the Bay of Islands Ophiolite
Up to 3km of dunitic rocks occur below crustal gabbro in the Blow Me Down massif (Bay of Islands Ophiolite, Newfoundland). Analyses of dunite- and gabbro-hosted clinopyroxene grains (cpx) for rare earth elements (REE), Zr, and Ti reveal three types of chondrite-normalized patterns: N-group patterns are similar to cpx grains as they would form by fractionation from a range of mid ocean ridge basalts (MORB). They are typical for a few higher level dunitic samples as well as mafic cumulates. F-group patterns show light REE depletion, very strong middle REE fractionation and a positive Zr anomaly and occur in dunites only. R-group patterns are severely depleted in both light and heavy REEs relative to MORB-like cpx and two samples of the group display a positive Ti anomaly. They are also restricted to dunitic rocks. The patterns are explained in a two stage model in which an established dunite sequence, dominated by MORB-type cumulate signatures (N-group), was infiltrated by extremely refractory melts. During infiltration of the refractory melt chromatographic fractionation occurred, transforming N-group dunites into F-group and R-group dunites. The F-group patterns are composite patterns: heavy REE, Ti+/-Zr reflect the original MORB-like cumulate dunite host, light REEs indicate equilibrium with the infiltrating, refractory melts. Steep slopes in the middle REEs reflect the position of the chromatographic front. For more intense percolation of refractory melts, R-group patterns with a positive Ti anomaly will form by the same process. The rest of the R-group patterns displaying no positive Ti anomaly may represent either the most intensely reacted host rocks or these dunites derive directly as cumulates from refractory melts. Only small volumes of refractory melt (a 5m column) are required to imprint the observed trace element pattern on the thick original dunite sequence. One of several possible origins for the refractory melts is transformation of original MORB-type melts by way of chromatographic fractionation within the highly depleted, residual uppermost mantle. In the framework of an oceanic spreading centre, the migrating, refractory liquids are considered a late event following the main constructive stage dominated by aggregated melts. The study demonstrates that highly refractory melts can exist under oceanic spreading centres dominated by a MORB-like cumulate and volcanic sequence.