High- and low-Cr chromitite and dunite in a Tibetan ophiolite: evolution from mature subduction system to incipient forearc in the Neo-Tethyan Ocean

  • Qing Xiong
  • Hadrien Henry
  • William L. Griffin
  • Jian-Ping Zheng
  • Takako Satsukawa
  • Norman J. Pearson
  • Suzanne Y. O’Reilly
Original Paper


The microstructures, major- and trace-element compositions of minerals and electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD) maps of high- and low-Cr# [spinel Cr# = Cr3+/(Cr3+ + Al3+)] chromitites and dunites from the Zedang ophiolite in the Yarlung Zangbo Suture (South Tibet) have been used to reveal their genesis and the related geodynamic processes in the Neo-Tethyan Ocean. The high-Cr# (0.77–0.80) chromitites (with or without diopside exsolution) have chromite compositions consistent with initial crystallization by interaction between boninitic magmas, harzburgite and reaction-produced magmas in a shallow, mature mantle wedge. Some high-Cr# chromitites show crystal-plastic deformation and grain growth on previous chromite relics that have exsolved needles of diopside. These features are similar to those of the Luobusa high-Cr# chromitites, possibly recycled from the deep upper mantle in a mature subduction system. In contrast, mineralogical, chemical and EBSD features of the Zedang low-Cr# (0.49–0.67) chromitites and dunites and the silicate inclusions in chromite indicate that they formed by rapid interaction between forearc basaltic magmas (MORB-like but with rare subduction input) and the Zedang harzburgites in a dynamically extended, incipient forearc lithosphere. The evidence implies that the high-Cr# chromitites were produced or emplaced in an earlier mature arc (possibly Jurassic), while the low-Cr# associations formed in an incipient forearc during the initiation of a new episode of Neo-Tethyan subduction at ~130–120 Ma. This two-episode subduction model can provide a new explanation for the coexistence of high- and low-Cr# chromitites in the same volume of ophiolitic mantle.


High- and low-Cr chromitite and dunite Tibetan ophiolites Compositions and microstructures of chromitites Melt–peridotite interaction Subduction episodes in Neo-Tethyan Ocean 



We thank Will Powell, Yoann Gréau, David Adams, Sarah Gain and Liene Spruzeniece (CCFS/GEMOC, Macquarie University) for their expert assistance with the analytical work, and Prof. Jing-Sui Yang for his help with the field work. This paper benefited greatly from constructive comments from Dr. Akihiro Tamura and an anonymous reviewer, and Editor Othmar Müntener provided very useful suggestions and handling. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41520104003), the Ministry of Land and Resources of China (12120115027201), the CCFS ARC Centre of Excellence grants (to S.Y.O’R and W.L.G.), a Macquarie University International Postgraduate Scholarship (to Q.X.), and postgraduate funds from the MQ Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. This study used instrumentation funded by DEST Systemic Infrastructure Grants, ARC LIEF, NCRIS/AuScope, industry partners and Macquarie University. This is contribution 965 from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems (http://www.ccfs.mq.edu.au) and 1151 from the GEMOC Key Centre (http://www.gemoc.mq.edu.au).

Supplementary material

410_2017_1364_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (317 kb)
Online Resource 1_Fig. ESM1 Scanned and field photos of representative chromitite-dunite associations in the Zedang ophiolite (South Tibet). a and b: High-Cr# chromitite; e to h: low-Cr# chromitite and low-Cr# dunite. f and g: the transitions between low-Cr# dunite and low-Cr# chromitite and between harzburgite and low-Cr# chromitite, respectively. i and j: representative filed relationships between low-Cr# disseminated chromitite and low-Cr# dunite. Abbreviations: D, disseminated; N, nodular; M, massive; Ol, olivine; Ch, chromite; Cpx, clinopyrxene; Opx, orthopyroxene. White scale bars represent 1 mm in length, except for those in i and j are 2 cm in length (PDF 316 kb)
410_2017_1364_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (312 kb)
Online Resource 1_Fig. ESM2 Backscattered electron (BSE; a, g, m and s) images and X-ray elemental maps (b-f, h-l, n-r and t-x) illustrating four representative occurrences of exsolved diopside needles in chromite from high-Cr# chromitites (10ZD-7-1a, -1b and -1c) in the Zedang ophiolite (South Tibet). The white rectangles in g, m and s represent the corresponding X-ray mapping areas. Note the exsolved Di in a-f, reflecting the exsolution followed by the crystal structure cubic chromite. Mineral abbreviations see the caption of Fig. 2 (PDF 311 kb)
410_2017_1364_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (254 kb)
Online Resource 1_Fig. ESM3 Backscattered electron (BSE) images (a, f, k) and X-ray elemental maps (b-e, g-j, l-o) illustrating the occurrence of poly-phase silicate inclusions within chromite from low-Cr# chromitites in the Zedang ophiolite (South Tibet). a to e: inclusions of amphibole, phlogopite, serpentine and orthopyroxene in a chromite grain from ZD11-55; f to j: a poly-phase inclusion of amphibole, phlogopite and serpentine in a chromite grain from ZD11-55; k to o: abundant irregular inclusions of amphibole, phlogopite and serpentine in a chromite grain from ZD11-50-1. Note that the Al-deficient areas in c enclose orthopyroxene and serpentine; those in h and m represent serpentine. The Ca maps (d, i, n) mark the occurrence of amphibole. The Na-rich but Ca-deficient areas in e, j and o delineate phlogopite. White scale bars represent 100 μm in length. Mineral abbreviations see the caption of Fig. 2 (PDF 254 kb)
410_2017_1364_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (194 kb)
Online Resource 1_Fig. ESM4 Crystallographic preferred orientation (CPO) of olivine (Ol), orthopyroxene (Opx), clinopyroxene (Cpx) and chromite (Ch) in the analyzed region (shown in Fig. 10a) of the harzburgite and chromitite parts of ZD11-55. Lower hemisphere, equal-area stereographic projections. “N” represents the number of analyzed grains, calculated as one point per grain. CPO strength can be estimated using the J-index (Bunge 2013) and M-index (Skemer et al. 2005). “MD” means maximum density. “pfJ” represents index of fabric intensity for each crystal axis (Michibayashi and Mainprice 2004). The black dashed lines indicate the trace of the foliation, almost parallel to the lithologic boundary shown in Fig. 10a (PDF 193 kb)
410_2017_1364_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (67 kb)
Online Resource 1_Fig. ESM5 Crystallographic preferred orientation (CPO) of chromite in the analyzed region (as shown in Fig. 11a) of 10ZD-7-1a. Abbreviations are the same as those in Fig. ESM4 (PDF 66 kb)
410_2017_1364_MOESM6_ESM.docx (53 kb)
Supplementary material 6 (DOCX 54 kb)
410_2017_1364_MOESM7_ESM.docx (11 kb)
Supplementary material 7 (DOCX 11 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems (CCFS) and GEMOCMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral ResourcesSchool of Earth Sciences, China University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.Géosciences Environnement Toulouse (GET)Université de Toulouse, CNRS, IRDToulouseFrance
  4. 4.Division of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Department of GeophysicsKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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