Melt segregation in the lower crust: How have experiments helped us?

Tracy Rushmer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


The rheological and chemical behaviour of the lower crust during anatexis has been a major focus of geological investigations for many years. Modern studies of crustal evolution require significant knowledge, not only of the potential source regions for granites, but also of the transport paths and emplacement mechanisms operating during granite genesis. We have gained significant insights into the segregation and transport of granitoid melts from the results of experimental studies on rock behaviour during partial melting. Experiments performed on crustal rock cores under both hydrostatic conditions and during deformation have led, in part, to two conclusions. (1) The interfacial energy controlling melt distribution is anisotropic and, as a result, the textures deviate significantly from those predicted for ideal systems - planar solid-melt interfaces are developed in addition to triple junction melt pockets. The ideal dihedral angle model for melt distribution cannot be used as a constraint to predict melt migration in the lower crust. (2) The 'critical melt fraction' model, which requires viscous, granitic melt to remain in the source until melt fractions reach >25 vol%, is not a reliable model for melt segregation. The most recent experimental results on crustal rock cores which have helped advance our understanding of melt segregation processes have shown that melt segregation is controlled by several variables, including the depth of melting, the type of reaction and the volume change associated with that reaction. Larger scale processes such as tectonic environment determine the rate at which the lower crust heats and deforms, thus the tectonic setting controls the melt fraction at which segregation takes place, in addition to the pressure and temperature of the potential melting reactions. Melt migration therefore can occur at a variety of different melt fractions depending on the tectonic environment; these results have significant implications for the predicted geochemistry of the magmas themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-83
Number of pages11
JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Earth Sciences
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Experimental rock deformation
  • Geochemistry
  • Melt migration
  • Melting reactions
  • Static experiments
  • Strain
  • Stress


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