Alteration of the oceanic lower crust at a slow-spreading axis: Insight from vein-related zoned halos in olivine gabbro from Atlantis Massif, Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Toshio Nozaka, Patricia Fryer

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Incipient-stage alteration products in relatively fresh oceanic gabbros from deep boreholes provide critical information on hydration processes in the oceanic lower crust and their effect on lithosphere dynamics. We present the results of a petrographic study on the alteration of olivine-bearing gabbroic rocks recovered from the deeper parts of Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Hole U1309D in the Atlantis Massif near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at 30°N. In these rocks, alteration is localized in proximity to fluid-infiltration veins or igneous contacts. It is most conspicuous in halos surrounding amphibole + chlorite veins or leucocratic veins in olivine-bearing gabbros, where coronitic fringes of tremolite, chlorite and talc occur around discrete olivine grains. Many of the halos exhibit a zonal pattern with systematic changes in mineral assemblage, generally consisting of three zones: tremolite + chlorite around relict olivine-plagioclase contacts; talc pseudomorphs after olivine; and tremolite pseudomorphs after olivine. The tremolite + chlorite assemblage appears in increasing amounts and talc grows unevenly with increasing thickness toward the veins. The alteration minerals have highly magnesian compositions, reflecting the compositions of the precursor igneous phases.Within the zone closest to the veins, green hornblende with a relatively high Al content occurs, showing textures suggestive of its later formation than the coronitic tremolite and chlorite. Considering the mode of occurrence and chemical composition of the minerals combined with thermodynamic calculations of silica and water activities in a simplified system, we conclude that the zoned halos were caused by metasomatism owing to protracted or sequential infiltration of hydrothermal fluids at amphibolite-facies conditions (450-750°C, 1·5-2 kbar). Textural relationships clearly indicate that zoned halos formed earlier than serpentinization and clay mineral formation, and suggest that the high-temperature, amphibolite-facies alteration took place in a near-axis region before the exhumation of the lower crustal rocks. Recent results of seafloor drilling have provided supporting evidence for the predominance of gabbroic rocks in oceanic core complexes. The similarity in mineral association between zoned halos and schistose fault rocks suggests that preferential formation of talc and/or chlorite, rather than serpentine, at contacts between gabbroic rocks and peridotite plays an essential role in detachment faulting and tectonic exhumation of oceanic core complexes from lower crustal levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberegq098
Pages (from-to)643-664
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Alteration
  • Atlantis Massif
  • Gabbro
  • Mid-Atlantic Ridge
  • Oceanic core complex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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