Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 165, Issue 2, pp 349–372 | Cite as

Timescales of crustal melting in the Higher Himalayan Crystallines (Sikkim, Eastern Himalaya) inferred from trace element-constrained monazite and zircon chronology

  • Daniela Rubatto
  • Sumit Chakraborty
  • Somnath Dasgupta
Original Paper


The petrology and timing of crustal melting has been investigated in the migmatites of the Higher Himalayan Crystalline (HHC) exposed in Sikkim, India. The metapelites underwent pervasive partial melting through hydrous as well as dehydration melting reactions involving muscovite and biotite to produce a main assemblage of quartz, K-feldspar, plagioclase, biotite, garnet ± sillimanite. Peak metamorphic conditions were 8–9 kbar and ~800 °C. Monazite and zircon crystals in several migmatites collected along a N–S transect show multiple growth domains. The domains were analyzed by microbeam techniques for age (SHRIMP) and trace element composition (LA-ICP-MS) to relate ages to conditions of formation. Monazite preserves the best record of metamorphism with domains that have different zoning pattern, composition and age. Zircon was generally less reactive than monazite, with metamorphic growth zones preserved in only a few samples. The growth of accessory minerals in the presence of melt was episodic in the interval between 31 and 17 Ma, but widespread and diachronous across samples. Systematic variations in the chemical composition of the dated mineral zones (HREE content and negative Eu anomaly) are related to the variation in garnet and K-feldspar abundances, respectively, and thus to metamorphic reactions and P–T stages. In turn, this allows prograde versus decompressional and retrograde melt production to be timed. A hierarchy of timescales characterizes melting which occurred over a period of ~15 Ma (31–17 Ma): a given block within this region traversed the field of melting in 5–7 Ma, whereas individual melting reactions lasted for time durations below, or approaching, the resolution of microbeam dating techniques (~0.6 Ma). An older ~36 Ma high-grade event is recorded in an allocthonous relict related to mafic lenses. We identify two sections of the HHC in Sikkim that traversed similar P–T conditions at different times, separated by a tectonic discontinuity. The higher structural levels reached melting and peak conditions later (~26–23 Ma) than the lower structural levels (~31–27 Ma). Diachronicity across the HHC cannot be reconciled with channel flow models in their simplest form, as it requires two similar high-grade sections to move independently during collision.


U–Pb geochronology Migmatites Trace elements Himalaya Melting reactions 



Field work in Sikkim and data interpretation benefited from constructive and animated discussions with Robert Anczkiewicz and Dilip Mukhopadhyay. Michaela Flanigan and Mike Jolland (ANU) are thanked for compiling chemical data and petrographic observations, respectively. The review of C Warren and B Bingen is kindly acknowledged. D Rubatto was financially supported by the Australian Research Council, QEII fellowships, DP0556700 and DP110101599. The research of S Chakraborty is supported by funds from the DFG and the Ruhr Universitaet Bochum. S Dasgupta acknowledges the financial support of the DST, Government of India, through the J.C. Bose Fellowship.

Supplementary material

410_2012_812_MOESM1_ESM.xls (88 kb)
e1. SHRIMP U–Pb analyses of monazite (XLS 88 kb)
410_2012_812_MOESM2_ESM.xls (82 kb)
e2. SHRIMP U–Pb analyses of zircon (XLS 82 kb)
410_2012_812_MOESM3_ESM.xls (88 kb)
e3. LA-ICPMS analyses of monazite (XLS 87 kb)
410_2012_812_MOESM4_ESM.xls (77 kb)
e4. LA-ICPMS analyses of zircon (XLS 77 kb)
410_2012_812_MOESM5_ESM.tif (7.2 mb)
Photographs of rock samples. The cut is perpendicular to the main foliation (TIFF 7390 kb)
410_2012_812_MOESM6_ESM.eps (3.6 mb)
Probability diagrams with superimposed histograms of monazite U–Pb ages (left) and Tera-Wasserburg diagrams for monazite U–Pb analyses (right). Ellipses in the Tera-Wasserburg diagrams represent 2 sigma errors. Only filled gray ellipses are used for average age calculation. See text for details (EPS 3677 kb)
410_2012_812_MOESM7_ESM.eps (2.9 mb)
Probability diagrams with superimposed histograms of monazite U–Pb ages (left) and Tera-Wasserburg diagrams for monazite U–Pb analyses (right). Ellipses in the Tera-Wasserburg diagrams represent 2 sigma errors. Only filled gray ellipses are used for average age calculation. See text for details (EPS 2935 kb)
410_2012_812_MOESM8_ESM.eps (2.7 mb)
Probability diagrams with superimposed histograms of zircon U–Pb ages (left) and Tera-Wasserburg diagrams for zircon U–Pb analyses (right). Ellipses in the Tera-Wasserburg diagrams represent 2 sigma errors. Only filled gray ellipses are used for average age calculation. See text for details (EPS 2807 kb)
410_2012_812_MOESM9_ESM.eps (329 kb)
Ti-in-zircon temperatures plotted against average age of dated domains. Gray bars illustrate the spread of temperatures obtained from multiple domains of identical age. Black circles indicate the average temperature for each group. Thin lines link zircon domains from the same sample (EPS 328 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniela Rubatto
    • 1
  • Sumit Chakraborty
    • 2
  • Somnath Dasgupta
    • 3
  1. 1.Research School of Earth SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Institut fuer Geologie, Mineralogie und GeophysikRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesIndian Institute of Science Education and ResearchSalt Lake, KolkataIndia

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