Magmatic processes in developing oceanic crust revealed in a cumulate xenolith collected at the East Pacific Rise, 9°50′N



The petrology and geochemistry of a xenolith, a fragment of a melt-bearing cumulate, within a recently erupted mid-ocean ridge (MOR) lava flow provide information on petrogenetic processes occurring within the newly forming oceanic crust beneath the northern East Pacific Rise (NEPR). The xenolith reveals important petrologic information about MOR magmatic systems concerning (1) melt distribution in a crystal-dominated mush; (2) melt-crystal reactions within the mush; (3) the chemistry of melts that have contributed to the cumulate lithology; and (4) the chemistry of axial melts that enter the axial magma system. The xenolith was enclosed within a moderately primitive, normal mid-ocean ridge basalt (NMORB) erupted in 1991 within the neovolcanic zone of the NEPR, at approximately 9°50′N. The sample is a matrix-dominated, cumulate olivine anorthosite, composed of anorthite (An94-90) and bytownite (An89-70), intergranular olivine (Fo86±0.3), minor sulfide and spinel, and intergranular glass. Marginal corrosion of plagioclase, and possibly olivine, and internal remelting of plagioclase indicate syntexis. It is surmised that the pore volume was eviscerated several times with moderately primitive basaltic melts and reduced by intergranular crystallization of forsteritic olivine. The presence of anorthite as a cumulate phase in the xenolith and the observation of anorthite xenocrysts in NMORB lavas, and as a cumulate phase in ophiolite gabbros, indicate that Ca-rich melts that are not a part of the NMORB lineage play an important role in the construction of the oceanic crust.