The meta-igneous granulite xenoliths from Kerguelen Archipelago

Evidence of a continent nucleation in an oceanic setting

Michel Grégoire*, Jean Yves Cottin, André Giret, Nadine Mattielli, Dominique Weis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Xenoliths of meta-igneous origin occur as one of the two main types of ultramafic and mafic xenoliths entrained by alkaline lavas of the Kerguelen islands. These are designated type II xenoliths and are subdivided into three mineralogical groups. Subtype IIa and IIc xenoliths are interpreted as crystallisation products of basaltic melts that were emplaced near the crust-mantle boundary during the early tholeiitic-transitional magmatic activity of the Kerguelen islands. Younger magmatism became more alkaline and subtype lib xenoliths were formed as high-pressure alkaline cumulates related to the last alkaline volcanic stage. Subsequently, the plagioclase-bearing type II rocks have been re-equilibrated under granulite facies conditions. This addition of mafic material around the crust-mantle boundary is consistent with seismic evidence for crustal thickening to 14-20 km. Calculated compressional seismic velocities (Vp) for the basic granulites are consistent with the range of observed Vp in the low-velocity region underlying the oceanic crust. Such growth in the thickness of the oceanic crust may be caused by intrusion of basalts at different levels in the lithosphere and may provide the heat responsible for granulitic metamorphism in the oceanic setting. This study suggests that basic granulites can account for the observed seismic characteristics of oceanic plateaux and can be important components of Kerguelen oceanic lithosphere where there has been large-scale magma production. Moreover we speculate that the Kerguelen islands and perhaps the surrounding plateau represent a continental nucleation process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-283
Number of pages25
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Volume133
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998

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