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Journal Article

Ultra-high pressure inclusion in Archean ophiolitic podiform chromitite in mélange block suggests deep subduction on early Earth


Kusky,  Timothy
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Wang,  Lu
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Robinson,  Paul T.
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Huang,  Yang
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Wirth,  R.
3.5 Interface Geochemistry, 3.0 Geochemistry, Departments, GFZ Publication Database, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum;

Ning,  Wenbin
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Zhong,  Yating
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Polat,  Ali
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Kusky, T., Wang, L., Robinson, P. T., Huang, Y., Wirth, R., Ning, W., Zhong, Y., Polat, A. (2021): Ultra-high pressure inclusion in Archean ophiolitic podiform chromitite in mélange block suggests deep subduction on early Earth. - Precambrian Research, 362, 106318.

Cite as: https://gfzpublic.gfz-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_5007398
The discovery of ultrahigh pressure (UHP) minerals in orogenic belts has revolutionized our understanding of subduction and the return flow of previously deeply subducted material to Earth's surface as part of the cycling and interaction of crustal and mantle systems. One class of UHP minerals is found as inclusions in orogenic peridotite-hosted podiform-chromite systems, within Phanerozoic ophiolites and ophiolitic mélanges. Such inclusions have opened a window into processes of recycling of crustal materials to the deep mantle and back through subduction and mantle convection in Phanerozoic orogens. Here, we document the first occurrence of an UHP mineral hosted in an ophiolitic podiform chromitite mélange from the Neoarchean paired metamorphic belt of the Central (Taihang) Orogenic Belt, Northern China. Numerous inclusions of rutile, apatite, dolomite, and amphibole are interpreted to be crustal-derived; they occur in podiform chromite grains hosted in a 2.6–2.5 Ga ophiolitic mélange now part of the North China Craton and formed by subduction of oceanic and continental material. Microstructures and phase relationships in a multi-phase inclusion of TiO2(II), rutile, apatite, and tremolite yield minimum P-T conditions of 7.5 GPa at 1000 °C, indicating that the crustal host, including carbonates, were subducted to depths > 270 km, transferred to the mantle of the overriding plate, and returned to the surface by 2.5 Ga. We suggest that slab rollback forced upward mantle flow, incorporating entities from the lower plate, perhaps in serpentinite diapirs, resulting in adiabatic melting that allowed crustal material to be trapped in chromite grains crystallizing in high-Mg melts. Contrasting bulk moduli and thermal contraction of the inclusions and host chromite protected the inclusions from P-induced back-reaction during exhumation. Together, these features show that the 1600 km long Central (Taihang) Orogenic Belt is emerging as the world’s first well-documented Phanerozoic style orogen, with classic tectonic zonation, ophiolitic mélanges, paired metamorphism, local evidence for UHP conditions, foreland basins, and late to post orogenic magmatism. Applying the null hypothesis, we explain this high degree of similarity by invoking the operation of Phanerozoic style plate tectonics, at least throughout the 1600 km length of the COB, and by geological comparison, in other similar aged geological terrains globally. From this we infer modern-style plate tectonics was operating in the Neoarchean.