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Plagioclase peridotites in ocean-continent transitions: Refertilized mantle domains generated by melt stagnation in the shallow mantle lithosphere.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2010
Author Müntener O. Manatschal G. Desmurs L. Pettke T. ,
Project Fluids in subduction zones
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Petrology
Volume (Issue) 51
Page(s) 255 - 294
Title of proceedings Journal of Petrology


The existence of different mantle domains exposed in ocean-continent transition zones provides a framework for understanding the generation of ultramafic seafloor along magma-poor rifted margins. In this study we present detailed petrological and geochemical data on peridotites from the Eastern Central Alps ophiolites in Switzerland and Italy to identify different mantle domains, to estimate the extent of refertilization, and to test whether refertilization is associated with a thermal signature that has important implications for geophysical interpretations of ocean-continent transitions. The compositions of clinopyroxene, orthopyroxene and spinel clearly reflect the different mantle domains. Relative to clinopyroxenes from spinel peridotites, clinopyroxenes from plagioclase peridotites have lower Na2O and Sr contents, but higher middle to heavy rare earth element ratios and Zr concentrations, and different Sc-V relationships. Spinels in plagioclase peridotites have higherTiO2 and lower Mg-numbers compared with those in spinel peridotites. Mineral-mineral trace element partitioning suggests that spinel peridotites equilibrated at substantially lower temperatures than plagioclase peridotites.The temperature difference between the spinel and plagioclase peridotites indicates an important thermal boundary between the two.The geochemical data show systematic spatial variations. A heterogeneous, ‘subcontinental domain’ with no syn-rift melt imprint is separated from a ‘refertilized domain’ that exhibits a complex history of regional-scale melt infiltration and melt-rock reaction, which has erased most of the ancient history. Simple calculations suggest that up to 12% of mid-ocean ridge basalt-type melt can be stored in plagioclase peridotite, relative to a depleted residue. Such a ‘lithospheric sponge’ provides an explanation for the fertile compositions of the peridotites and the rare occurrence of volcanic rocks in magma-poor rifted margins.We suggest that magma-poor vs magma-rich margins are largely determined by the efficiency of melt extraction and not so much by melt generation processes, given a similar initial composition of the upwelling mantle. It is proposed that refertilization increases textural diversity and chemical heterogeneity related to shallow crystallization in the mantle lithosphere.