Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 86, Issue 1, pp 54–76

Chromian spinel as a petrogenetic indicator in abyssal and alpine-type peridotites and spatially associated lavas

  • Henry J. B. Dick
  • Thomas Bullen

DOI: 10.1007/BF00373711

Cite this article as:
Dick, H.J.B. & Bullen, T. Contr. Mineral. and Petrol. (1984) 86: 54. doi:10.1007/BF00373711


The composition of chromian spinel in alpine-type peridotites has a large reciprocal range of Cr and Al, with increasing Cr# (Cr/(Cr+Al)) reflecting increasing degrees of partial melting in the mantle. Using spinel compositions, alpine-type peridotites can be divided into three groups. Type I peridotites and associated volcanic rocks contain spinels with Cr#<0.60; Type III peridotites and associated volcanics contain spinels with Cr#>0.60, and Type II peridotites and volcanics are a transitional group and contain spinels spanning the full range of spinel compositions in Type I and Type II peridotites. Spinels in abyssal peridotites lie entirely within the Type I spinel field, making ophiolites with Type I alpine-type peridotites the most likely candidates for sections of ocean lithosphere formed at a midocean ridge. The only modern analogs for Type III peridotites and associated volcanic rocks are found in arc-related volcanic and intrusive rocks, continental intrusive assemblages, and oceanic plateau basalts. We infer a sub-volcanic arc petrogenesis for most Type III alpine-type peridotites. Type II alpine-type peridotites apparently reflect composite origins, such as the formation of an island-arc on ocean crust, resulting in large variations in the degree and provenance of melting over relatively short distances. The essential difference between Type I and Type III peridotites appears to be the presence or absence of diopside in the residue at the end of melting.

Based on an examination of co-existing rock and spinel compositions in lavas, it appears that spinel is a sensitive indicator of melt composition and pressure of crystallization. The close similarity of spinel composition fields in genetically related basalts, dunites and peridotites at localities in the oceans and in ophiolite complexes indicates that its composition reflects the degree of melting in the mantle source region. Accordingly, we infer from the restricted range of spinel compositions in abyssal basalts that the degree of mantle melting beneath mid-ocean ridges is generally limited to that found in Type I alpine-type peridotites. It is apparent, therefore, that the phase boundary OL-EN-DI-SP +melt⇋OL-EN-SP+melt has limited the degree of melting of the mantle beneath mid-ocean ridges. This was clearly not the case for many alpine-type peridotites, implying very different melting conditions in the mantle, probably involving the presence of water.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry J. B. Dick
    • 1
  • Thomas Bullen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeophysicsWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta Cruz, Santa CruzUSA