International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 103, Issue 1, pp 141–163 | Cite as

Ophicalcites from the northern Pyrenean belt: a field, petrographic and stable isotope study

  • Camille ClercEmail author
  • Philippe Boulvais
  • Yves Lagabrielle
  • Michel de Saint Blanquat
Original Paper


Brecciated and fractured peridotites with a carbonate matrix, referred to as ophicalcites, are common features of mantle rocks exhumed in passive margins and mid-oceanic ridges. Ophicalcites have been found in close association with massive peridotites, which form the numerous ultramafic bodies scattered along the North Pyrenean Zone (NPZ), on the northern flank of the Pyrenean belt. We present the first field, textural and stable isotopic characterization of these rocks. Our observations show that Pyrenean ophicalcites belong to three main types: (1) a wide variety of breccias composed of sorted or unsorted millimeter- to meter-sized clasts of fresh or oxidized ultramafic material, in a fine-grained calcitic matrix; (2) calcitic veins penetrating into fractured serpentine and fresh peridotite; and (3) pervasive substitution of serpentine minerals by calcite. Stable isotopic analyses (O, C) have been conducted on the carbonate matrix, veins and clasts of samples from 12 Pyrenean ultramafic bodies. We show that the Pyrenean ophicalcites are the product of three distinct genetic processes: (1) pervasive ophicalcite resulting from relatively deep and hot hydrothermal activity; (2) ophicalcites in veins resulting from tectonic fracturing and cooler hydrothermal activity; and (3) polymictic breccias resulting from sedimentary processes occurring after the exposure of subcontinental mantle as portions of the floor of basins which opened during the mid-Cretaceous. We highlight a major difference between the eastern and western Pyrenean ophicalcites belonging, respectively, to the sedimentary and to the hydrothermal types. Our data set points to a possible origin of the sedimentary ophicalcites in continental endorheic basins, but a post-depositional evolution by circulation of metamorphic fluids or an origin from relatively warm marine waters cannot be ruled out. Finally, we discuss the significance of such discrepancy in the characteristics of the NPZ ophicalcites in the frame of the variable exhumation history of the peridotites all along the Pyrenean realm.


Ophicalcite Ophicarbonate Stable isotopes Oxygen Carbon Veins Matrices Pyrenees Lherz Urdach Mantle exhumation Tectonic fracturation Hydrothermalism Sedimentary deposits 



This work was made possible, thanks to CNRS, Total and the Action Marges research group (INSU, Total, IFP, BRGM and IFREMER) through a Ph.D. grant to C. Clerc. We thank G. Früh-green and G. Manatschal for their valuable comments that helped improve the quality of the manuscript. We are grateful to B. Smith for improving the English, to J.-C. Ringenbach and Benoit Ildefonse for fruitful discussions and improvement of the quality of the figures and to C. Nevado for the high-quality thin sections realized at the Géosciences Montpellier laboratory.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Camille Clerc
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philippe Boulvais
    • 2
  • Yves Lagabrielle
    • 3
  • Michel de Saint Blanquat
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Géologie, CNRS-UMR 8538Ecole Normale SuperieureParis Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Géosciences Rennes, CNRS-UMR 6118Université de Rennes 1Rennes CedexFrance
  3. 3.Géosciences Montpellier, CNRS-UMR 5243Université de Montpellier 2MontpellierFrance
  4. 4.GET, CNRS-UMR 5563Université Paul SabatierToulouseFrance

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