Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 93, Issue 2, pp 251–264 | Cite as

Experimental constraints on depths of fractionation of mildly alkalic basalts and associated felsic rocks: Pantelleria, Strait of Sicily

  • Gail A. Mahood
  • Don R. Baker


Pantelleria, Italy, is a continental rift volcano consisting of alkalic basalt, trachyte, and pantellerite. At 1 atm along the FMQ buffer, the least-evolved basalt (Mg #= 58.5% norm ne) yields olivine on the liquidus at ∼1,180° C, followed by plagioclase, then by clinopyroxene, and by titanomagnetite and ilmenite at ∼ 1,075°. After ∼70% crystallization, the residual liquid at ∼1,025° is still basaltic and also contains apatite and possibly kaersutite. A less alkalic basalt shows the same order of phase appearance. Glass compositions define an Fe-enrichment trend and a density maximum for anhydrous liquids that coincides with a minimum in Mg#.

During the initial stages of crystallization at 1 atm, liquids remain near the critical plane of silica-undersaturation until, at lower temperatures, Fe-Ti oxide precipitation drives the composition toward silica saturation. Thus the qtz-normative trachytes and pantellerites typically associated with mildly ne-normative basalts in continental rifts could be produced by low-pressure fractional crystallization or by shallow-level partial melting of alkali gabbro. At 8 kbar, clinopyroxene is the liquidus phase at ∼1,170° C, followed by both olivine and plagioclase at ∼1,135°. Because clinopyroxene dominates the crystallizing assemblage and plagioclase is more albitic than at 1 atm, liquids at 8 kbar are driven toward increasingly ne-normative compositions, suggesting that higher-pressure fractionation favors production of phonolitic derivatives.

Natural basaltic samples at Pantelleria are aphyric or contain 1–10% phenocrysts of plag≥ ol≥cpx or ol>cpx, with groundmass Fe-Ti oxides and apatite. The lack of phenocrystic plagioclase in two of the lavas suggests that crystallization at slightly higher PH2O may have destabilized plagioclase relative to the 1-atm results, but there is no preserved evidence for significant fractionation at mantle depths as clinopyroxene is the least abundant phenocryst phase in all samples and contains only small amounts of octahedral Al. The liquid line and phenocryst compositions match more closely the 1-atm experimental results than those at 8 kbar.

Although major-element trends in natural liquids and crytals reflect low-pressure fractionation, minor- and trace-element concentrations preserve evidence of multiple parental liquids. Scatter in variation diagrams exceeds that attributable to crystal accumulation in these phenocryst-poor rocks, and the large range in concentrations of P and Ti at high MgO contents cannot be produced by polybaric fractionation nor by mixing with coexisting felsic magmas. Sr and O isotope ratios rule out significant interaction with crystalline upper crust, Mesozoic shelf sediments, or Tertiary evaporites. Positive correlations of compatible and incompatible elements suggest that the basalts are not simply related to one another by closed-system fractional crystallization of a single parental magma. Increasing Ce/Yb with Ce suggests that these relations are not a product of mixing within a replenished magma chamber, nor of mixing with more felsic members of the suite, which have smaller Ce/Yb ratios. Low-pressure fractional crystallization of ol+cpx+ plag±oxides from slightly different parental magmas produced by varying degrees of melting of garnet-bearing peridotite is a possible scenario.

Small and infrequently replenished magma reservoirs in this continental rift environment may account for the strongly differentiated nature of the Pantellerian basalts. There is no correlation between Mg# and eruptive frequency, in part because concentration of volatiles in residual liquids offsets the effect of Fe-enrichment on melt density, such that strong Fe-enrichment is no hindrance to eruption.


Olivine Parental Magma Continental Rift Critical Plane Alkalic Basalt 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gail A. Mahood
    • 1
  • Don R. Baker
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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