Crustal growth in south‐eastern Australia—evidence from lower crustal eclogitic and granulitic xenoliths


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Mafic and ultramafic xenoliths in a basaltic cone at The Anakies in south‐eastern Australia are geochemically equivalent to continental basaltic magmas and cumulates. The xenolith microstructures range from recognizably meta‐igneous for intrusive rocks to granoblastic for garnet pyroxenites. Contact relationships between different rock types within some xenoliths suggest a complex petrogenesis of multiple intrusive, metamorphic and metasomatic events at the crust/mantle boundary during the evolution of south‐eastern Australia. Unaltered spinel lher‐zolite, typical of the uppermost eastern Australian mantle, is interleaved with or veined by the metamorphosed intrusive rocks of basaltic composition. Geothermobarometry calculations by a variety of methods show a concordance of equilibration temperatures ranging from 880°C to 980°C and pressures of 12 to 18 kbar (1200‐1800 mPa). These physical conditions span the gabbro to granulite to eclogite transition boundaries. The water‐vapour pressure during equilibration is estimated to be about 0.5% of the load pressure, using amphibole breakdown data. Large fluid inclusions of pure CO2 are abundant in the mineral phases in the xenoliths, and it is suggested that flux of CO2 from the mantle has been an important heat source and fluid medium during metamorphism of the mafic and ultramafic protoliths at the lower crust/upper mantle boundary. The calculated pressures and temperatures suggest that the south‐eastern Australian crust has sustained a high geothermal gradient. In addition, the nature of the mineral assemblages and the contact relationships of granulitic rock with spinel lherzolite, characteristic of mantle material, suggest that the Moho is not a discrete feature in this region, but is represented by a transition zone approximately 20 km thick. These inferences are in agreement with geophysical data (including seismic, heat‐flow and electrical resistivity data) determined for south‐eastern Australia. Underplating at the crust/mantle boundary by continental basaltic magmas may be an important alternative or additional mechanism to the conventional andesite model for crustal accretion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-45
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1983


  • geothermobarometry
  • Key‐words: CO fluid inclusions
  • lower crustal xenoliths
  • underplating


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