The upper crustal evolution of a large silicic magma body: Evidence from crystal-scale Rb-Sr isotopic Heterogeneities in the fish canyon magmatic system, Colorado

Charlier, B. L. A.; Bachmann, O.; Davidson, J. P.; Dungan, M. A. and Morgan, D. J. (2007). The upper crustal evolution of a large silicic magma body: Evidence from crystal-scale Rb-Sr isotopic Heterogeneities in the fish canyon magmatic system, Colorado. Journal of Petrology, 48(10) pp. 1875–1894.



Batholith-sized bodies of crystal-rich magmatic 'mush' are widely inferred to represent the hidden sources of many large-volume high-silica rhyolite eruptive units. Occasionally these mush bodies are ejected along with their trapped interstitial liquid, forming the distinctive crystal-rich ignimbrites known as 'monotonous intermediates'. These ignimbrites are notable for their combination of high crystal contents (35-55%), dacitic bulk compositions with interstitial high-silica rhyolitic glass, and general lack of compositional zonation. The 5000 km3 Fish Canyon Tuff is an archetypal eruption deposit of this type, and is the largest known silicic eruption on Earth. Ejecta from the Fish Canyon magmatic system are notable for the limited compositional variation that they define on the basis of whole-rock chemistry, whereas similar to 45 vol.% crystals in a matrix of high-silica rhyolite glass together span a large range of mineral-scale isotopic variability ( microns to millimetres). Rb/Sr isotopic analyses of single crystals (sanidine, plagioclase, biotite, hornblende, apatite, titanite) and sampling by micromilling of selected zones within glass plus sanidine and plagioclase crystals document widespread isotopic disequilibrium at many scales. High and variable 87Sr/86Sri values for euhedral biotite grains cannot be explained by any model involving closed-system radiogenic ingrowth, and they are difficult to rationalize unless much of this radiogenic Sr has been introduced at a late stage via assimilation of local Proterozoic crust. Hornblende is the only phase that approaches isotopic equilibrium with the surrounding melt, but the melt ( glass) was isotopically heterogeneous at the millimetre scale, and was therefore apparently contaminated with radiogenic Sr shortly prior to eruption. The other mineral phases (plagioclase, sanidine, titanite, and apatite) have significantly lower 87Sr/86Sri values than whole-rock values ( as much as - 0.0005). Such isotopic disequilibrium implies that feldspars, titanite and apatite are antecrysts that crystallized from less radiogenic melt compositions at earlier stages of magma evolution, whereas highly radiogenic biotite xenocrysts and the development of isotopic heterogeneity in matrix melt glass appear to coincide with the final stage of the evolution of the Fish Canyon magma body in the upper crust. Integrated petrographic and geochemical evidence is consistent with pre- eruptive thermal rejuvenation of a near-solidus mineral assemblage from similar to 720 to 760 ºC (i.e. partial dissolution of feldspars+quartz while hornblende+titanite+biotite were crystallizing). Assimilation and blending of phenocrysts, antecrysts and xenocrysts reflects chamber-wide, low Reynolds number convection that occurred within the last ~10 000 years before eruption.

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