Thick sections of layered ultramafic cumulates in the Oman ophiolite revealed by an airborne hyperspectral survey: petrogenesis and relationship to mantle diapirism

Harold Clénet, Georges Ceuleneer, Patrick Pinet, Bénédicte Abily, Yves Daydou, Esther Harris, Isma Amri, Céline Dantas

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Using the HyMap instrument, we have acquired visible and near infrared hyperspectral data over the Maqsad area of the Oman ophiolite (~ 15 x 60 km). This survey allowed us to identify and map the distribution of clinopyroxene-rich cumulates (inter-layered clinopyroxenites and wehrlites) whose occurrence was previously undocumented in this area. The cumulates reach several hundred meters in thickness and crop out at distances exceeding 15 km on both sides of the Maqsad former spreading centre. They occur either in mantle harzburgites, as km-sized layered intrusions surrounded by fields of pegmatitic dykes consisting of orthopyroxene-rich pyroxenite and gabbronorites, or at the base of the crustal section where they are conformably overlain by cumulate gabbros. These ultramafic cumulates crystallized from silica- and Mg-rich melts derived from a refractory mantle source (e.g. high Cr#, low [Al₂O₃], low [TiO₂]). These melts are close to high-Ca boninites, although, strictly speaking, not perfect equivalents of present-day, supra-subduction zone, boninites. Chemical stratigraphy reveals cycles of replenishment, mixing and fractional crystallization from primitive (high Mg#) melts, typical of open magma chambers and migration of inter-cumulus melts. The TiO₂ content of clinopyroxene is always low (≤ 0.2 wt.%) but quite variable compared to the associated pegmatites that are all derived from a source ultra-depleted in high field strength elements (HFSE). This variability is not caused by fractional crystallization alone, and is best explained by hybridization between the ultra-depleted melts (parent melts of the pegmatites) and the less depleted mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORB) parent of the dunitic-troctolitic-gabbroic cumulates making up the crustal section above the Maqsad diapir. We propose that, following a period of magma-starved spreading, the Maqsad mantle diapir, impregnated with tholeiitic melts of MORB affinity, reached shallow depths beneath the ocean ridge. This diapir induced melting of the formerly accreted and hydrothermally altered lithosphere. At this stage, these boninitic-like lithospheric melts crystallized as pegmatitic dykes. As the diapir continued to rise, the amount of MORB reaching shallow depths increased, together with the surrounding temperature, leading to the formation of magma chambers where the crystallization of layered cumulates became possible. These cumulates remained rich in pyroxene and devoid of plagioclase as long as the contribution of MORB-derived melts was moderate relative to the lithospheric-derived melts. As the contribution of MORB to the refilling of the magma chamber increased, gabbroic cumulates started to crystallize.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-281
Number of pages17
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinopyroxenite
  • Ocean crust
  • Oman ophiolite
  • Remote sensing
  • Spectroscopy
  • Wehrlite


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