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Subduction-related shoshonitic and ultrapotassic magmatism: a study of Siluro-Ordovician syenites from the Scottish Caledonides

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Syenites are important or predominant components of several plutonic complexes, emplaced between 456 and 415 Ma along the NW margin of the Caledonian orogenic belt, adjacent to the Lewisian foreland, in W and NW Scotland. Although there are, in detail, chemical differences between the syenites from each centre, they form a well-defined compositional group overall. Ratios amongst their trace elements (especially very high values of La/Nb) are quite different from those trachytes and syenites formed by fractional crystallisation of ocean-island basalts and their continental equivalents, emplaced in regions of anorogenic crustal tension. Instead, the Scottish Caledonian syenites closely resemble chemically the fractional-crystallisation residua of potassic subduction-related magmas, such as the shoshonitic series. A comendite minor intrusion from a swarm associated with the Loch Borralan and Loch Ailsh syenitic complexes is remarkably similar in composition to Recent obsidian from the shoshonitic volcano of Lipari, in the Aeolian Arc. Published Sr- and Pb-isotopic ratios preclude a significant component of either upper (Proterozoic Moine schists) or lower crust (granulite-facies Archaean Lewisian or Proterozoic Grenvillian gneisses) in all these syenites, except in local syenitic facies of the Glenelg-Ratagain complex. Fractional crystallisation appears to be the mechanism by which the liquids which formed these syenites evolved from basic parental magmas. The phases involved in this process may have included plagioclase, alkali feldspar, pyroxene, amphibole, biotite, garnet, Fe-Ti oxide, sphene, allanite, apatite, zircon and zirconolite, and therefore all the ratios amongst even the so-called incompatible elements may have changed during the evolution of the leucocratic magmas. Nevertheless, a detailed study of the Glen Dessarry complex shows that the changes are insufficient to disguise the geochemical nature of the parental magmas. These appear to be picritic shoshonite (MgO> 15%, Ni>400ppm, La/Yb∼20, La/Nb>5) for the Glen Dessarry, Loch Borralan and Loch Ailsh syenites, and picritic ultrapotassic magmas (MgO>15%, Ni>400 ppm, La/ Yb∼60, La/Nb>7) — such as would crystallise to minettes — for the Loch Loyal and Glenelg-Ratagain syenites. Mafic shoshonites were erupted amongst the 410 Ma Lome lavas of this region and also occur as widespread approximately-contemporaneous volcanic feeder plugs. Minettes of similar age are also common as dykes in NW Scotland. Numerous large tonalite-granite complexes, with minor diorites and gabbros, were emplaced in W and NW Scotland between 435 and 400 Ma. These are generally acknowledged to be mixtures of magmas from crustal and mantle sources. Their more mafic members show compositional features, such as very high Ba and Sr, which group them with the rare syenites and the Lorne lavas of the same region into a distinctive geochemical province, within which shoshonitic and allied magmas were the mantle-derived component. Two models are presented to account for the generation of strongly-potassic, subduction-related magmas several hundred km behind a NW-directed subduction zone, or during the period immediately following continental collision.

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Correspondence to R. N. Thompson.

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Thompson, R.N., Fowler, M.B. Subduction-related shoshonitic and ultrapotassic magmatism: a study of Siluro-Ordovician syenites from the Scottish Caledonides. Contr. Mineral. and Petrol. 94, 507–522 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00376342

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  • Fractional Crystallisation
  • Parental Magma
  • Continental Collision
  • Minette
  • Minor Intrusion