Isotopic Disequilibrium and High-Crystallinity Magma Ascent: Clues to the Temporal Restriction of Proterozoic Anorthosites

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Grant Michael Bybee, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Many Proterozoic anorthosite massifs show crustal isotopic signatures that have fuelled debate regarding the source (mantle vs. lower crust) of these temporally restricted magmas. The models advocating a mantle derivation for these rocks suggest that lower crustal assimilation plays an important role in developing the isotopic signature of the massifs, but no evidence exists to support this. We make use of Sr, Nd and Pb isotopic compositions of anorthosites from the Mealy Mountains Intrusive Suite (MMIS), the Nain Plutonic Suite (NPS) and the Rogaland Anorthosite Province (RAP), their internal mineral phases and comagmatic, high-pressure pyroxene megacrysts, which represent samples from various stages of the polybaric ascent of the magmas, to probe the origin of the crustal isotopic signatures and assess the importance of differentiation at lower crustal depths. Study of the MMIS and NPS is instructive as each is intruded into crust of significantly different age and isotopic composition. We observe varying degrees of internal isotopic disequilibrium, enforcing the notion that the nature of the crustal assimilant has a profound influence on the chemical signature of the magmas (Fig. 1). We also find unexpected patterns of internal isotopic disequilibrium, such as isotopically depleted orthopyroxene relative to plagioclase (Fig. 1), which suggests that anorthosite petrogenesis is not a “simple” case of progressive crustal contamination during polybaric magma ascent, but is more likely to involve significant differentiation and solidification at lower crust depths. The 100 m.y. magmatic timescales observed in these anorthosite systems may be caused by significant magmatic differentiation at Moho/lower crustal levels, as well as formation in long-lived arc environments. These long-lived magmatic timescales contrast with recent observations suggesting that the duration of magma ascent from the Moho to surface in arc environments is on the order of months to years. Such contrasting timescales for magmatism hint at non-uniformitarian processes at work in the subduction regime (favoring anorthosite production) during the Proterozoic Eon and/or suggests that there may be a continuum of magma ascent rates in arcs with anorthosite ascent rates representing the slowest end of the spectrum.