Textural Character of gabbroic rocks from pito deep: A record of magmatic processes and the genesis of the upper plutonic crust at fast-spreading mid-ocean ridges

T. C. Brown, M. J. Cheadle, B. E. John, L. A. Coogan, J. S. Gee, Jeffrey Alan Karson, S. M. Swapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


The tectonic window at Pito Deep, in the southern Pacific Ocean, permits study of the formative processes of uppermost East Pacific Rise (EPR) gabbroic ocean crust. Here we present a detailed microstructural and crystallographic study of 17 gabbroic samples from the uppermost ∼800 m of plutonic crust exposed in the Pito Deep Rift. We integrate two- A nd three-dimensional measurements of crystal size, shape, spatial distribution and orientation, with petrographic observations and geochemical data to constrain the formation of fast spread gabbroic ocean crust. The shallowest samples, collected < 55 metres below the sheeted dikes (mbsd), have evolved bulk-rock compositions, elongate plagioclase crystals, a clear plagioclase shape- A nd crystallographic-preferred orientation, and preserve only minor amounts of intracrystalline strain. The characteristics of these rocks and their proximity to the sheeted dike complex, suggests they formed by crystallization at the lateral tip of an axial melt lens that solidified as it moved off axis. Underlying samples from 96-724 mbsd, record more primitive bulk-rock compositions, less elongate plagioclase crystals and exhibit increasing strength of both plagioclase shape- A nd crystallographic-preferred orientation with depth below the sheeted dikes. These samples host plagioclase crystals that show increasing intracrystalline strain with depth, suggesting magmatic to hypersolidus submagmatic flow within the mush zone beneath the axial melt lens. These observations, together with inclined-to-steeply dipping mineral layering preserved below ∼180 mbsd, are interpreted to record the downward transport of crystal-rich magma originating at the bottom of the melt lens through the uppermost kilometre of the mush zone at the EPR. The location of initial crystallization along the floor of the axial melt lens determines the magmatic processes that affect the crystal-rich magma en route to solidification as lower ocean crust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)997-1026
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • EBSD
  • lower ocean crust
  • magmatic flow
  • microstructures
  • Pito Deep
  • textures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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