Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract One of the major puzzles presented by the geochemistry of the Palaeocene plateau lavas of Skye and Mull (N.W. Scotland) is that, although a very strong case can be made that the magmas are variably isotopically contaminated by Archaean Lewisian continental crust, little evidence has been gleaned to date from their major- and trace-element compositions to illuminate this hypothetical process. The combined results of published Sr-, Nd- and Pb-isotope studies of these lavas allow the basalts and hawaiites to be divided into three broad groups: essentially uncontaminated; contaminated with granulite-facies Archaean crust; contaminated with amphibolite-facies Archaean crust. Members of each group show distinctive chondrite-normalised incompatible-element patterns. The processes which gave rise to isotopic contamination of these lavas also affected the abundances and ratios of Ba, Rb, Th, K, Sr and light REE in the magmas, whilst having negligible effects on their abundances and ratios of Nb, Ta, P, Zr, Hf, Ti, Y and middle-heavy REE. Because such a wide range of elements were affected by the contamination process, it is postulated that the contaminant was a silicate melt of one or more distinctive crustal rock types, rather than an aqueous or similar fluid causing selective elemental movements from wall rocks into the magmas. As previous experimental and isotopic studies have shown that the Skye and Mull basic magmas were not constrained by cotectic equilibria at the time when they interacted with sial, the compositions of the contaminated lavas have been modelled in terms of simple magma-crust mixtures. Very close approximations to both the abundances and ratios of incompatible elements in the two groups of contaminated basalts may be obtained by adding 15% to 20% of Lewisian leucogneisses to uncontaminated Palaeocene basalt. Nevertheless, major-element constraints suggest that the maximum amount of granitic contaminant which has been added to these magmas lies between 5% and 10%. These estimates may be reconciled by postulating that the contaminants were large-fraction cotectic partial melts of Lewisian leucogneisses, leaving plagioclase residua. A corollary of this hypothesis is that it is necessary to postulate that the “magma chambers” where the sialic contamination occurred were, in fact, dykes or (more probably) sills. The very large surface-to-volume ratios of such magmas bodies would permit the systematic stripping, by partial melting, of the most-easily-fusible leucogneisses and pegmatites from the Lewisian crust, whilst failing to melt its major rock types. A present-day analogue to this situation may be the extensive sill-like magma bodies detected by geophysical methods within the continental crust beneath the Rio Grande Rift, southwestern U.S.A.
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