Minor and trace elements in olivines as probes into early igneous and mantle melting processes

Stephen F. Foley*, Dejan Prelevic, Tatjana Rehfeldt, Dorrit E. Jacob

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Citations (Scopus)


The trace element composition of olivine is a rapidly growing research area that has several applications of great potential. Mantle olivines can be distinguished from volcanic olivines by lower concentrations of Ca (<700. ppm), Ti (<70. ppm), and often Cr. The melting of pyroxenites derived from recycled ocean crust can be recognized in volcanic olivines by correlations of Mn, Al, Sc and Co in addition to Ni. High Ni is characteristic of olivine derived from olivine-free source rocks, but alone it does not distinguish between recycling of ocean crust, continental crust, mantle wedge hybridization, and intra-mantle melt migration. Trace elements help to identify different types of non-peridotitic ultramafic rocks, including those not formed by ocean crust recycling. High Li may be caused by recycling of continental crust, as in Mediterranean post-collisional volcanics or by interaction with carbonatitic melts, and correlation with further elements such as Zn, Na, Ti and Ca will help to identify minerals in the source assemblages, such as phlogopite, spinel, garnet, amphiboles and carbonates, and thus the source of the olivine-free assemblages. Olivines often store the earliest chemical signals of melt loss in peridotites, but later absorb trace elements from passing melts, and are thus excellent monitors of the chemistry of metasomatic agents. Trace elements distinguish between Ti-enrichment by silicate melt metasomatism (high Ti, low Ca) and high-Ca signatures associated with plumes and rift regions that may be due to carbonate-silicate melts. Li may be enriched in olivine in the orogenic mantle, indicating the involvement of melted continental crustal material. Experimental data on element partitioning and diffusion currently partly conflicts with information from natural rocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-191
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


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