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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Professor Yaoling Niu

Niu, Yaoling, Gilmore, T., Mackie, S., Greig, A. & Bach, W. (2002). Mineral chemistry, whole-rock compositions and petrogenesis of ODP Leg 176 gabbros: Data and discussion. ODP Scientific Results 176: 1–60.

Author(s) from Durham


We report mineral chemistry, whole-rock major element compositions, and trace element analyses on Hole 735B samples drilled and selected during Leg 176. We discuss these data, together with Leg 176 shipboard data and Leg 118 sample data from the literature, in terms of primary igneous petrogenesis. Despite mineral compositional variation in a given sample, major constituent minerals in Hole 735B gabbroic rocks display good chemical equilibrium as shown by significant correlations among Mg# (= Mg/[Mg+Fe2+]) of olivine, clinopyroxene, and orthopyroxene and An (=Ca/[Ca+Na]) of plagioclase. This indicates that the mineral assemblages olivine + plagioclase in troctolite, plagioclase + clinopyroxene in gabbro, plagioclases + clinopyroxene + olivine in olivine gabbro, and plagioclase + clinopyroxene + olivine + orthopyroxene in gabbronorite, and so on, have all coprecipitated from their respective parental melts. Fe-Ti oxides (ilmenite and titanomagnetite), which are ubiquitous in most of these rocks, are not in chemical equilibrium with olivine, clinopyroxene, and plagioclase, but precipitated later at lower temperatures. Disseminated oxides in some samples may have precipitated from trapped Fe-Ti–rich melts. Oxides that concentrate along shear bands/zones may mark zones of melt coalescence/transport expelled from the cumulate sequence as a result of compaction or filter pressing. Bulk Hole 735B is of cumulate composition. The most primitive olivine, with Fo = 0.842, in Hole 735B suggests that the most primitive melt parental to Hole 735B lithologies must have Mg# ≤0.637, which is significantly less than Mg# = 0.714 of bulk Hole 735B. This suggests that a significant mass fraction of more evolved products is needed to balance the high Mg# of the bulk hole. Calculations show that 25%–45% of average Eastern Atlantis II Fracture Zone basalt is needed to combine with 55%–75% of bulk Hole 735B rocks to give a melt of Mg# ≤0.637, parental to the most primitive Hole 735B cumulate. On the other hand, the parental melt with Mg# ≤0.637 is far too evolved to be in equilibrium with residual mantle olivine of Fo > 0.89. Therefore, a significant mass fraction of more primitive cumulate (e.g., high Mg# dunite and troctolite) is yet to be sampled. This hidden cumulate could well be deep in the lower crust or simply in the mantle section. We favor the latter because of the thickened cold thermal boundary layer atop the mantle beneath slow-spreading ridges, where cooling and crystallization of ascending mantle melts is inevitable. These observations and data interpretation require reconsideration of the popular concept of primary mantle melts and relationships among the extent of mantle melting, melt production, and the composition and thickness of igneous crust.