The Volcanic-Plutonic Connection

  • Allen F. GlaznerEmail author
  • Drew S. Coleman
  • Ryan D. Mills
Part of the Advances in Volcanology book series (VOLCAN)


One way to frame the debate about the relationships between volcanic and plutonic rocks is this: are plutons samples of magma that passed through the crust, or residues left behind by extraction of erupted liquids? In the former case plutons are compositionally equivalent to cogenetic volcanic rocks, barring biases introduced by passing through the crustal filter; in the latter they are cumulates, having lost liquid to eruption. These hypotheses make specific predictions about trace-element variations, which we test using global geochemical databases for circum-Pacific convergent margins and western North America. Volcanic rocks are far more abundant in these datasets than plutonic rocks and are biased to more mafic compositions. After subsampling the volcanic dataset to match the plutonic dataset, we find little evidence for significant loss of liquid from plutons. Rather, plutonic and volcanic trace-element patterns are generally indistinguishable. Where distinctions do occur, they are backwards; for example, a higher proportion of plutonic rocks has low Eu, Zr, and Ba, features of fractionated liquids, than volcanic rocks. These observations support the hypothesis that liquids fractionated from crystal-rich magmas are of small volume and are relatively immobile (e.g., aplites). These conclusions, derived from bulk-rock geochemistry, are supported by U-Pb zircon geochronology and field and textural observation. These data support the view that plutonic rocks are texturally modified samples of the same magmas that erupt. Partial melting provides an alternative to crystal fractionation for the origin of high-silica volcanic rocks.


Pluton Geochemistry Geochronology Geochemical database 



This work is the product of discussions and debates with colleagues and students too numerous to summarize here. Several, however, warrant special mention. Most importantly, John Bartley has been instrumental in the development of non-axiomatic thinking regarding plutons and pluton-volcano connections. Vigorous discussions with Peter Lipman, Bill McIntosh, Matt Zimmerer, Lang Farmer, and Calvin Miller have significantly influenced our ideas over the past decade. Reviews by Sergio Rocchi and Eric Christiansen helped us to clarify many of the points in the paper and to avoid too many mistakes. This work has been supported by grants to our students from the University of North Carolina Department of Geological Sciences’ Martin Fund, Sigma Xi, the Geological Society of America, and the University of California’s White Mountain Research Station. Funding from the National Science Foundation includes awards EAR-0336070, 0538129, 1050215, 1052813, and 1232608. We gratefully acknowledge generous cooperation and logistical support from the U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey, in particular Jan van Wagtendonk, Peggy Moore, and Greg Stock. We also thank the staff of the White Mountain Research Center for their generous assistance during field work.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen F. Glazner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Drew S. Coleman
    • 1
  • Ryan D. Mills
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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