The field and microstructural signatures of deformation-assisted melt transfer: insights from magmatic arc lower crust, New Zealand

Uvana Meek*, Sandra Piazolo, Nathan R. Daczko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Melt must transfer through the lower crust, yet the field signatures and mechanisms involved in such transfer zones (excluding dykes) are still poorly understood. We report field and microstructural evidence of a deformation-assisted melt transfer zone that developed in the lower crustal magmatic arc environment of Fiordland, New Zealand. A 30–40 m wide hornblende-rich body comprising hornblende ± clinozoisite and/or garnet exhibits 'igneous-like' features and is hosted within a metamorphic, two-pyroxene–pargasite gabbroic gneiss (GG). Previous studies have interpreted the hornblende-rich body as an igneous cumulate or a mass transfer zone. We present field and microstructural characteristics supporting the later and indicating the body has formed by deformation-assisted, channelized, reactive porous melt flow. The host granulite facies GG contains distinctive rectilinear dykes and garnet reaction zones (GRZ) from earlier in the geological history; these form important reaction and strain markers. Field observations show that the mineral assemblages and microstructures of the GG and GRZ are progressively modified with proximity to the hornblende-rich body. At the same time, GRZ bend systematically into the hornblende-rich body on each side of the unit, showing apparent sinistral shearing. Within the hornblende-rich body itself, microstructures and electron back-scatter diffraction mapping show evidence of the former presence of melt including observations consistent with melt crystallization within pore spaces, elongate pseudomorphs of melt films along grain boundaries, minerals with low dihedral angles as small as <10° and up to <60°, and interconnected 3D melt pseudomorph networks. Reaction microstructures with highly irregular contact boundaries are observed at the field and thin-section scale in remnant islands of original rock and replaced grains, respectively. We infer that the hornblende-rich body was formed by modification of the host GG in situ due to reaction between an externally derived, reactive, hydrous gabbroic to intermediate melt percolating via porous melt flow through an actively deforming zone. Extensive melt–rock interaction and metasomatism occurred via coupled dissolution–precipitation, triggered by chemical disequilibrium between the host rock and the fluxing melt. As a result, the host plagioclase and pyroxene became unstable and were reacted and dissolved into the melt, while hornblende and to a lesser extent clinozoisite and garnet grew replacing the unstable phases. Our study shows that hornblendite rocks commonly observed within deep crustal sections, and attributed to cumulate fractionation processes, may instead delineate areas of deformation-assisted, channelized reactive porous melt flow formed by melt-mediated coupled dissolution–precipitation replacement reactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-821
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • dissolution–precipitation
  • hornblendite
  • melt–rock interaction
  • reactive melt flow


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