Per migma ad magma downunder

Allan J.R. White*, Bruce W. Chappell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    According to some early definitions, ‘magma’ had to be completely molten so that granitic rocks containing residual material from their source (restite) were not considered to be magmatic. Granites and volcanics with abundant recognizable restite were called migmatites or migmatitic rocks, and this terminology appears to be still in use by some. However, many felsic granites and volcanics commonly contain at least some restite, and for this reason we suggest that magma be defined either as melt or as rock material with enough melt for it to become mobile and intrusive or extrusive. The rocks crystallizing from these magmas are igneous. They are not migmatites. On the other hand, we suggest that migmatites be defined as rocks that did not have sufficient melt to become mobile; they retain a structural coherency even though the structures may be complex. Differences between the two rock types result from the amount of melt phase. When a critical melt fraction is reached during partial melting, there is a rapid change from migma to magma (migmatite to granite). The geochemistry and mineralogy of migmatites tell us little about reactions that produce more melt and hence about granite formation because of back reactions and other processes that occur during the cooling of migmatite. Back reactions mostly involve H2O that is not lost from the migmatitic system. Because H2O is lost by processes of second boiling and pressure quenching during the crystallization of granite magmas at or near the surface, it is these rocks and their inclusions, not migmatites, that provide the most information about sources and processes of granite formation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)221-225
    Number of pages5
    JournalGeological Journal
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 1990


    • Critical melt fraction
    • Granite
    • Magma definition
    • Migmatite


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