, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 134-147

Compositional zonation in garnets in peridotite xenoliths

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Abstract

Garnets in 42 peridotite xenoliths, most from southern Africa, have been analyzed by electron probe to seek correlations between compositional zonation and rock history. Xenoliths have been placed into the following 6 groups, based primarily upon zonation in garnet: I (12 rocks)-zonation dominated by enrichment of Ti and other incompatible elements in garnet rims; II (10 rocks)-garnet nearly homogeneous; III (8 rocks)-rims depleted in Cr, with little or no related zonation of Ti; IV (3 rocks)-slight Ti zonation sympathetic to that of Cr; V (3 rocks)-garnet rims depleted or enriched in Cr, and chromite included in garnet; VI (6 rocks)-garnets with other characteristics. Element partitioning between olivine, pyroxene, and garnet rims generally is consistent with the assumption of equilibrium before eruption. Although one analyzed rock contains olivine and pyroxene that may have non-equilibrated oxygen isotopes, no corresponding departures from chemical equilibrium were noted. Causes of zoning include melt infiltration and changes in temperature and pressure. Zonation was caused or heavily influenced by melt infiltration in garnets of Group I. In Groups III, IV, and V, most compositional gradients in garnets are attributed to changes in temperature, pressure, or both, and gradients of Cr are characteristic. There are no simple relationships among wt% Cr2O3 in garnet, calculated temperature, and the presence of compositional gradients. Rather, garnets nearly homogeneous in Cr are present in rocks with calculated equilibration temperatures that span the range 800–1500 °C. Although the most prominent Cr gradients are found in relatively Cr-rich garnets of rocks for which calculated temperatures are below 1050 °C, gradients are well-defined in a Group IV rock with T≈1300 °C. The variety of Cr gradients in garnets erupted from a range of temperatures indicates that the zonations record diverse histories. Petrologic histories have been investigated by simulated cooling of model rock compositions in the system CaO−MgO−Al2O3SiO2−Cr2O3. Proportions and compositions of pyroxene and garnet were calculated as functions of P and T. The most common pattern of zonation in Groups III and IV, a decrease of less than 1 wt% Cr2O3 core-to-rim, can be simulated by cooling of less than 200 °C or pressure decreases of less than 1 GPa. The preservation of growth zonation in garnets with calculated temperatures near 1300 °C implies that these garnets grew within a geologically short time before eruption, probably in response to fast cooling after crystallization of a small intrusion nearby. Progress in interpreting garnet zonations in part will depend upon determinations of diffusion rates for Cr. Zonation formed by diffusion within garnet cannot always be distinguished from that formed by growth, but Ca−Cr correlations unlike those typical of peridotite suite garnets may document diffusion.