Role of Compaction In Melt Extraction and Accumulation At a Slow Spreading Center: Microstructures of Olivine Gabbros From the Atlantis Bank (IODP Hole U1473A, SWIR)

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Geography and Geology


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


The exposure of gabbroic sequences at Oceanic Core Complexes (OCC) along ultraslow- to slow-spreading ridges permits the study of the processes forming the lower oceanic crust. On top of the Atlantis Bank OCC along the ultraslow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge, IODP Expedition 360 drilled Hole U1473A, mainly composed of primitive olivine gabbros interspersed with more evolved Ti-Fe oxide-bearing gabbros and minor felsic veins. These rocks record a complex history of protracted magmatism during continuous uplift and deformation of the gabbroic sequence. Extensive crystal-plastic deformation is dominantly recorded in the shallower sections of the drillhole, whereas the deeper sections better preserve primary magmatic features. We focus on microstructures, including intra-crystalline deformation of rock-forming minerals, and plagioclase crystallographic preferred orientations of olivine gabbros lacking evidence for exhumation-related crystal plastic deformation, to gain insights on the relationship between compaction, melt migration and melt accumulation during the early magmatic history of this section of lower oceanic crust. Olivine gabbros are characterized by ubiquitous grain-size variations, from coarse- to fine-grained intervals. Minerals in coarse-grained intervals show intra-crystalline deformation, while fine-grained crystals lack internal strain. Bent coarse-grained plagioclase associated with weak magmatic foliation and lack of lineation suggest that the coarse-grained intervals were deformed under weak compaction. On the other hand, crystallographic preferred orientations of undeformed fine-grained plagioclase show weak lineations, likely indicative of non-coaxial strain. We thereby infer that the coarse-grained intervals underwent ongoing weak compaction from the stage of olivine + plagioclase ± clinopyroxene crystal mush to the melt-poor stage, and that this process likely aided melt extraction and accumulation in discrete melt-rich zones where crystals orientated in the direction of magmatic flow. Crystallization of melts in the melt-rich zones ultimately formed the fine-grained intervals at different depths in Hole U1473A. This indicates that processes of compaction can lead to local chemical and grain-size heterogeneities in a lower crustal section, while had a minor role in the melt movement at larger scales (e.g., the whole crystal mush) within the oceanic crust.

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