Origin of pyroxenites in the oceanic mantle and their implications on the reactive percolation of depleted melts

  • V. Basch
  • Elisabetta RamponeEmail author
  • G. Borghini
  • C. Ferrando
  • A. Zanetti
Original Paper


Pyroxenites are diffuse in fertile mantle peridotites and considered an important component in the mantle source of oceanic basalts. They are rarely documented in abyssal and ophiolitic peridotites representing residual mantle after melt generation, and few studies defining their origin are to date available. We present a field-based microstructural and geochemical investigation of the pyroxenite layers associated with depleted peridotites from the Mt. Maggiore ophiolitic body (Corsica, France). Field and petrographic evidence indicate that pyroxenite formation preceded the melt–rock interaction history that affected this mantle sector during Jurassic exhumation, namely (1) spinel-facies reactive porous flow leading to partial dissolution of the pyroxenites, and (2) plagioclase-facies melt impregnation leading to [plagioclase + orthopyroxene] interstitial crystallization. Pyroxenes show major element compositions similar to abyssal pyroxenites from slow-spreading ridges, indicative of magmatic segregation at pressures higher than 7 kbar. Both the parental melts of pyroxenites and the melts involved in the subsequent percolation were characterized by Na2O-poor, LREE-depleted compositions, consistent with unaggregated melt increments. This implies that they represent the continuous evolution of similarly depleted melts leading to different processes (pyroxenite segregation and later melt–rock interaction) during their upward migration. To support the genetic relation and the continuity between the formation of pyroxenites and the subsequent melt–rock interaction history, we modeled all the documented processes in sequence, i.e.: (1) formation of single-melt increments after 6% mantle decompressional fractional melting; (2) high-pressure segregation of pyroxenites; (3) spinel-facies reactive porous flow, (4) plagioclase-facies melt impregnation. The early fractionation of pyroxenites leads to a decrease in pyroxene saturation that is necessary for the subsequent reactive porous flow process, without any significant change in the melt REE composition.


Pyroxenite Melt–rock interaction Mantle melting pMELTS Oceanic lithosphere Alpine ophiolite 



We thank Veronique Le Roux and an anonymous reviewer for constructive reviews that improved the quality of this manuscript and O. Müntener for his work as editor. We thank Paolo Campanella and Alessandra Gavoglio, Christophe Nevado and Doriane Delmas for realization of the thin section and high-quality polishing, as well as Fabrice Barou for assistance with the EBSD analyses, Andrea Risplendente for assistance with the EPMA. This research has been supported by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) through the grant [PRIN-2015C5LN35] “Melt–rock reaction and melt migration in the MORB mantle through combined natural and experimental studies”.

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Basch
    • 1
  • Elisabetta Rampone
    • 1
    Email author
  • G. Borghini
    • 2
  • C. Ferrando
    • 3
  • A. Zanetti
    • 4
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e della Vita (DISTAV)Università degli Studi di GenovaGenoaItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra “Ardito Desio”University of MilanoMilanItaly
  3. 3.CRPG, University of LorraineNancyFrance
  4. 4.CNR-IGG, Sezione di PaviaPaviaItaly

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