Models of continental crustal magmagenesis commonly invoke the interaction of mafic mantle-derived magma and continental crust to explain geochemical and petrologic characteristics of crustal volcanic and plutonic rocks. This interaction and the specific mechanisms of crustal contamination associated with it are poorly understood. An excellent opportunity to study the progressive effects of crustal contamination is offered by the composite plutons of the Alaska Range, a series of nine early Tertiary, multiply intruded, compositionally zoned (peridotite to granite) plutons. Large initial Sr and Nd isotopic contrasts between the crustal country rock and likely parental magmas allow evaluation of the mechanisms and extents of crustal contamination that accompanied the crystallization of these ultramafic through granitic rocks. Three contamination processes are distinguished in these plutons. The most obvious of these is assimilation of crustal country rock concurrent with magmatic fractional crystallization (AFC), as indicated by a general trend toward crustal-like isotopic signatures with increasing differentiation. Second, many ultramafic and mafic rocks have late-stage phenocryst reaction and orthocumulate textures that suggest interaction with felsic melt. These rocks also have variable and enriched isotopic compositions that suggest that this felsic melt was isotopically enriched and probably derived from crustal country rock. Partial melt from the flysch country rock may have reacted with and contaminated these partly crystalline magmas following the precipitation and accumulation of the cumulus phenocrysts but before complete solidification of the magma. This suggests that in magmatic mush (especially of ultramafic composition) crystallizing in continental crust, a second distinct process of crustal contamination may be super-imposed on AFC or magma mixing involving the main magma body. Finally, nearly all rocks, including mafic and ultramafic rocks, have (87Sr/86Sr)i that are too high, and ??(T)Nd that are too low, to represent the expected isotopic composition of typical depleted mantle. However, gabbro xenoliths with typical depleted-mantle isotopic compositions are found in the plutons. This situation requires either an additional enriched mantle component to provide the parental magma for these plutons, or some mechanism of crustal contamination of the parent magma that did not cause significant crystallization and differentiation of the magma to more felsic compositions. Thermodynamic modeling indicates that assimilation of alkali- and water-rich partial melt of the metapelite country rock by fractionating, near-liquidus basaltic magma could cause significant contamination while suppressing significant crystallization and differentiation.
Additional publication details
Evidence for multiple mechanisms of crustal contamination of magma from compositionally zoned plutons and associated ultramafic intrusions of the Alaska Range