MORB differentiation: In situ crystallization in replenished-tapped magma chambers




Coogan, Laurence A.
O'Hara, M.J.

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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta


The differentiation of mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB) is investigated with a focus on intermediate- to fast-spreading ridges and two recently proposed differentiation mechanisms: (i) differentiation in replenished-tapped-crystallizing (RTX) magma chambers, and (ii) chromatographic element separation during melt-rock reaction in the lower crust. There is compelling evidence in the petrology and geochemistry of MORB indicating that magma chambers at mid-ocean ridges behave as open systems, as required on thermal grounds in locations where a steady-state magma chamber exists. It has recently been suggested that the commonly observed over-enrichment of more-to-less incompatible elements during MORB differentiation can be explained by such an RTX model. However, the petrology of samples from the lower oceanic crust suggests an alternative mechanism could produce this over-enrichment. Clinopyroxene crystals in oceanic gabbros are commonly strongly zoned in incompatible elements with crystal rims apparently having grown from melts with very high incompatible element abundances. Elevated Zr/LREE in clinopyroxene rims, which has been interpreted as indicating growth from a melt in which these elements had been fractionated from one another by melt-rock reaction (chromatographic separation), is shown to be more simply explained by post-crystallization diffusive fractionation. However, the high incompatible element abundances in crystal rims demonstrates that the interstitial melt in crystal mush zones becomes highly differentiated. Disaggregation of such mush zones is indicated by the crystal cargo of MORB and must be accompanied by the return of interstitial melt to the eruptible reservoir – a form of in situ crystallization. Both a magma chamber undergoing closed system in situ crystallization, and a RTX magma chamber in which crystallization occurs in situ, are shown to be capable of reproducing the differentiation trends observed in MORB. Simple stochastic models of the latter process suggest that significant variations of incompatible element abundances and ratios, at a constant MgO content, are likely to be generated from a single parental melt compositions. Additionally, parental melt compositions will generally be substantially more depleted than would be suggested if only fractional crystallization is considered. This has important implications for understanding the composition of the upper mantle. For example, the Sm/Nd of MORB are likely to be significantly lower than that of the Moho-crossing melt complicating analysis of the Nd-isotopic evolution of the upper mantle.




Coogan, L.A. & O’Hara, M.J. (2015). MORB differentiation: In situ crystallization in replenished-tapped magma chambers. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 158, 147-161.