Phase equilibria and melt productivity in the pelitic system: implications for the origin of peraluminous granitoids and aluminous granulites

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Peraluminous granitoid magmas are a characteristic product of ultrametamorphism leading to anatexis of aluminous metasedimentary rocks in the continental crust. The mechanisms and characteristic length-scales over which these magmas can be mobilized depend strongly on their melt fraction, because of their high viscosities. Thus, it is of fundamental importance to understand the controls exerted by pressure, temperature and bulk composition of the source material on melt productivity. We have studied experimentally the vapour-absent melting behaviour of a natural metapelitic rock and our results differ greatly from those of previous experimental and theoretical investigations of melt productivity from metamorphic rocks. Under H2O-undersaturated conditions, bulk composition of the source material is the overriding factor controlling melt fraction at temperatures on the order of 850–900° C. Granitoid melts formed in this temperature interval by the peritectic dehydration-melting reaction:

$$\begin{gathered} Biotite + plagioclase + aluminosilicate + quartz \hfill \\ = melt + garnet \hfill \\ \end{gathered} $$

have a restricted compositional range. As a consequence, melt fractions will be maximized from protoliths whose modes coincide with the stoichiometry of the melting reaction. This “optimum mode” (approximately 38% biotite, 32% quartz, 22% plagioclase and 8% aluminosilicate) reflects the fact that generation of low-temperature granitoid liquids requires both fusible quartzo-feldspathic components and H2O (from hydrous minerals). Metapelitic rocks rich in mica and aluminosilicate and poor in plagioclase contain an excess of refractory material (Al2O3, FeO, MgO) with low solubility in low-temperature silicic melts, and will therefore be poor magma sources. Melt fraction varies inversely with pressure in the range 7–13 kbar, but the effect is not strong: the decrease (at constant temperature) over this pressure range is of at most 15 vol% (absolute).

The liquids produced in our experiments are silicarich (68–73 wt% SiO2), strongly peraluminous (2–5 wt% normative corundum) and very felsic (MgO+FeO* +TiO2 less than 3 wt%, even at temperatures above 1000° C). The last observation suggests that peraluminous granitoids with more than 10% mafic minerals (biotite, cordierite, garnet) contain some entrained restite. Furthermore, because liquids are also remarkably constant in composition, we believe that restite separation is more important than fractional crystallization in controlling the variability within and among peraluminous granitoids.

We present liquidus phase diagrams that allow us to follow the phase relationships of melting of silica-and alumina-saturated rocks at pressures corresponding to the mid- to deep-continental crust. Garnet, aluminosilicate, quartz and ilmenite are the predominant restitic phases at temperatures of about 900° C, but Ti-rich biotite or calcic plagioclase can also be present, depending on the bulk composition of the protolith. At temperatures above 950–1050° C (depending on the pressure) the restitic assemblage is: hercynitic spinel+ilmenite+quartz±aluminosilicate. Our results therefore support the concept that aluminous granulites (garnet-spinel-plagioclase-aluminosilicate-quartz) can be the refractory residuum of anatectic events.

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Correspondence to Alberto E. Patiño Douce.

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Patiño Douce, A.E., Johnston, A.D. Phase equilibria and melt productivity in the pelitic system: implications for the origin of peraluminous granitoids and aluminous granulites. Contr. Mineral. and Petrol. 107, 202–218 (1991).

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  • Ilmenite
  • Aluminosilicate
  • Cordierite
  • Bulk Composition
  • Calcic Plagioclase