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Plagioclase Growth Rates Control Three-grain Junction Geometry in Dolerites and Gabbros



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Holness, Marian B 


Measurements of dihedral angles at three-grain junctions in gabbros, involving two grains of plagioclase and one grain of another mineral, demonstrate that the median dihedral angle is the generally same for all minerals in any sample. The few exceptions to this can be attributed to reaction or to the cessation of growth of plagioclase during the last stages of solidification of highly evolved liquids that do not crystallise volumetrically important amounts of plagioclase. The dihedral angle is therefore primarily controlled by the growth behavior of plagioclase in the last remaining liquid. The final value of the dihedral angle is controlled by the extent to which plagioclase growth is accommodated on the (010) faces: low angles form when growth on the (010) faces is minor compared to that on the other growth faces, and high angles form when the (010) faces accommodate significant growth. The response of dihedral angles to changes in crystallization time is therefore explained by the changing response of plagioclase growth to cooling rate, with limited growth on (010) faces during rapid cooling (leading to a low dihedral angle) and more significant growth at slow cooling (leading to high dihedral angle). The correspondence between dihedral angle and plagioclase grain shape (as quantified by the average apparent aspect ratio observed in thin section) is clearly evident for non-fractionated bodies such as dolerite sills. Although the stratigraphic variation of the overall plagioclase grain shape in the floor cumulates of the Skaergaard Intrusion is broadly similar to that observed in sills, there is no correspondence with observed augite-plagioclase-plagioclase dihedral angles, which show a step-wise stratigraphic variation, corresponding to changes in the liquidus assemblage. This decoupling occurs because plagioclase growth in layered intrusions occurs in two stages, the first at, or close to, the magma-mush interface and the second within the mush. Chemical maps of samples on either side of the augite-in dihedral angle step demonstrate a step-wise change in the aspect ratio of the plagioclase grown during the second stage, with the aspect ratio of this stage corresponding to that predicted from the dihedral angles. Plagioclase shape in layered intrusions thus records two separate thermal regimes, with the overall shape controlled by the global cooling rate of the intrusion, and the second (minor) stage within the mushy layer reflecting local thermal buffering controlled by the liquidus assemblage of the bulk magma. Dihedral angles in layered intrusions record the second thermal regime.



microstructure, plagioclase, dihedral angle, gabbro, dolerite, Skaergaard Intrusion, Bushveld Intrusion, Sept Iles Intrusion, Rum Intrusion

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Oxford University Press (OUP)
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/J021520/1)
This contribution is the result of many years’ work with numerous colleagues, including Troels Nielsen, Christian Tegner, Dan McKenzie, Mike Cheadle, Tony Morse, Madeleine Humphreys, Ilya Veksler, Ed Sawyer, Roz Helz, Chris Richardson, Grant Cawthorn and Jens Christian Andersen. I am grateful to them all for their support, encouragement and robust discussions. More recent discussions with Jerome Neufeld, Rob Farr, Olivier Namur and Mike Bickle led to refinement of the ideas expressed here. Troels Nielsen is thanked for the loan of the Bollingberg samples. Iris Buisman generated the QEMSCAN images. Constructive and helpful comments by Michael Higgins and Tony Morse resulted in significant improvements to an earlier version of this contribution. This work was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council [grant number NE/J021520/1].