Incremental Growth of Layered Mafic-Ultramafic Intrusions Through Melt Replenishment Into a Crystal Mush Zone Traced by Fe-Hf Isotope Systematics

Oliver Nebel*, Paolo A. Sossi, Timothy J. Ivanic, Antoine Bénard, Nicholas J. Gardiner, Richard L. Langford, Richard J. Arculus

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Layered mafic-ultramafic intrusions (LMI) are among the largest igneous bodies on Earth, and represent aggregations of large volumes of mantle- and some crustal-derived melts. Melts are emplaced over time-intervals of less than 1 million years, predominantly through multiple pulses of injections into pre-existing melt-crystal slurries. The dynamic interaction of physical processes, including density-driven separation and mixing of different components, within a solidifying magma chamber leads to such extreme chemical diversity between cumulate rock units that no unified model currently explains all aspects of the genesis of these intrusions. Here we present whole-rock stable Fe isotope data (expressed in ‰ variations as δ57Fe relative to IRMM-014) for samples of drill core taken from the stratified paleo-magma chamber of the Upper Zone of the late-Archean Windimurra Igneous Complex, Western Australia. Variations from near chondritic (δ57Fe ∼ + 0‰) to heavy (δ57Fe∼ + 0.2‰) values show a co-variation with initial radiogenic Hf isotope data that is unique to the Windimurra Upper Zone. The systematic isotopic variations from the roof to the base of the Upper Zone are best explained by an intricate sequence of events that included fractional crystallization and physical mixing. We propose that melt freshly sourced from the mantle was injected into and inflated a pre-existing crystal-melt mush comprising the upper Middle Zone. Re-establishment of crystal layering after replenishment introduced a chemical stratification with the formation of what became the Upper Zone and a crystal-interstitial melt ratio decreasing from roof to base. Basal, vanadiferous magnetitite horizons crystallized from Fe out of the liquid-in-residence. Variable degrees of perturbation and chaotic stirring of crystals with imperfect mixing of new and old components was followed by rapid crystal settling and subsequent cumulate stratification. Such melt rejuvenation, proposed here to be the cause for a newly established Upper Zone, leaves no unique petrologic fingerprint and forges a range in hybrid magma compositions throughout the Upper Zone rather than one single parental melt. This incremental growth of the intrusion can explain not only the observed coupled Fe-Hf isotope systematics, but also mineral disequilibria and cryptic layering in layered intrusions. In the context of incremental pluton assembly, two-component mixing paired with source heterogeneity can, at least in parts, potentially explain zircon-hosted Hf isotope heterogeneity so often observed in larger magmatic bodies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2
    JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020


    Dive into the research topics of 'Incremental Growth of Layered Mafic-Ultramafic Intrusions Through Melt Replenishment Into a Crystal Mush Zone Traced by Fe-Hf Isotope Systematics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this