Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 187–213 | Cite as

An experimental investigation of olivine morphology

  • Colin H. Donaldson


Olivine crystals can adopt ten types of shape. Experimental crystallization of eight rock melts shows that there is a systematic change from polyhedral or granular olivines → hopper olivines → branching olivines → randomly oriented chain olivines → parallel-growth chain olivines → chain+lattice olivines → plate or feather olivines, with increase in cooling rate and with increase in degree of supercooling. This sequence involves changes from complete to progressively less complete crystals and from equant habit to elongate bladed habit (c>ab) to tabular habit (acb). The sequence is not affected by the phase relations of the melt. The larger the olivine content of a melt the slower the cooling rate at which a particular olivine shape grows, whereas the lower the melt viscosity, the greater the cooling rate. Irrespective of the melt composition, comparable crystal shapes grow at the same degrees of supercooling. By comparison of the shapes of olivine crystals in experiments with those in rocks of similar composition, it is possible to deduce the cooling rate through the olivine crystallization interval and the approximate degree of supercooling at which the olivine crystals nucleated and grew in the rocks. The various shapes of skeletal olivines in many picrites, olivine-rich basalts and the Archaean “spinifex” rocks are not due to rapid cooling, but to rapid olivine growth caused by the high normative olivine content of the magma.


Cool Rate Olivine Crystal Shape Picrite Olivine Crystal 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin H. Donaldson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of St. AndrewsScotland
  2. 2.Lunar Science InstituteHoustonUSA

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