Partial melting during tectonic exhumation of a granulite terrane: an example from the Larsemann Hills, East Antarctica

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Abstract

Anatectic migmatites in medium- to low-pressure granulite facies metasediments exposed in the Larsemann Hills, East Antarctica, contain leucosomes with abundant quartz and plagioclase and minor interstitial K-feldspar, and assemblages of garnet–cordierite–spinel–ilmenite–sillimanite. Qualitative modelling in the system K2O–FeO–MgO–Al2O3–SiO2–H2O–TiO2–O2, in conjunction with various P calculations indicate that the high-grade retrograde evolution of the terrane was dominated by decompression from peak conditions of c. 7 kbar at c. 800 °C to 4–5 kbar at c. 750 °C. Extensive partial melting during decompression involved the replacement of biotite by the assemblage cordierite–garnet–spinel within the leucosomes. These leucosomes represent the site of partial melt generation, the cordierite–garnet–spinel–ilmenite assemblage representing the solid products and excess reactants from the melting reaction. The extraction and accumulation of this decompression-generated melt led to the formation of syntectonic pegmatites and extensive granitic plutons. Leucosome development and terrane decompression proceeded during crustal transpression, synchronous with upper crustal extension, during a progressive Early Palaeozoic collisional event. Subsequent retrograde evolution was characterized by cooling, as indicated by the growth of biotite replacing spinel and garnet, thin mantles of cordierite replacing spinel and quartz within metapelites, and garnet replacing orthopyroxene and hornblende within metabasites. P–T calculations on late mylonites indicate lower grade conditions of formation of c. 3.5 kbar at c. 650 °C, consistent with the development of late cooling textures.

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