Dacitic ocelli in mafic lavas, 3.8-3.7 Ga Isua greenstone belt, West Greenland: Geochemical evidence for partial melting of oceanic crust and magma mixing

Peter W.U. Appel, Ali Polat, Robert Frei

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Mafic volcanic rocks in the 3.8-3.7 Ga Isua greenstone belt, southern West Greenland, contain randomly distributed 1 to 10-centimeters long white spheroidal structures. In this study, these structures are called 'ocelli'. In the western part of the belt, ocelli-bearing lavas are enclosed in basaltic to picritic flows (MgO = 9-21 wt.%) with a subduction zone geochemical signature. The ocelli are composed predominantly of polycrystalline Na-plagioclase and quartz, with minor hornblende and biotite, whereas the surrounding amphibolite matrix (basaltic host) is composed mainly of hornblende, Ca-plagioclase, and quartz. The ocelli are devoid of radial or concentric internal structure, and display all stages of coalescence. Contacts between the ocelli and surrounding amphibolite matrix are sharp to gradational. Compositionally, the ocelli are calc-alkaline dacites (SiO 2 = 62.9-72.0 wt.%; MgO = 0.60-3.50 wt.%; Ni = 58-143 ppm; Cr = 250-510 ppm), whereas the surrounding matrix is tholeiitic basalt (SiO 2 = 46.6-50.6 wt.%; MgO = 8.70-12.30 wt.%; Ni = 119-175 ppm; Cr = 330-600 ppm). In terms of major element composition, the Isua ocelli closely resemble plagiogranites in Phanerozoic supra-subduction zone ophiolites. Field and petrographic observations, and geochemical data (SiO 2 = 54.2-60.7 wt.%; MgO = 3.95-7.72 wt.%; Ni = 127-158 ppm; Cr = 500-570 ppm) on the transitional areas between the ocelli and the matrix suggest magma mixing between dacitic and basaltic melts. On a chondrite-normalized diagram, the basaltic host is characterized by variably depleted LREE patterns (La/Sm cn = 0.30-0.94; Gd/Yb cn = 1.03-1.45), whereas the dacitic ocelli display LREE-enriched patterns (La/Sm cn = 1.30-2.60; Gd/Yb cn = 1.32-2.58). The strongly depleted REE patterns in the basaltic host are attributed to LREE loss during carbonate alteration. Partial melting of a forearc mantle wedge is favoured for the origin of the protolith of the basaltic host. The geochemical characteristic of the ocelli cannot be explained by post-magmatic alteration, slab melting, fractional crystallization of tholeiitic melts, or liquid immiscibility. We suggest that the dacitic ocelli might have been derived from hydrous melting of the fragments of oceanic crust (high-Mg volcanic rocks) that fell into the magma chamber, suggesting magma-crust interaction in the early Earth. Formation of dacitic volcanic rocks by partial melting of altered oceanic crust may have played an important role in the generation of felsic crust in the early Archean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-124
Number of pages20
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2009


  • Dacite
  • Eoarchean
  • Hydrous melting
  • Isua
  • Magma mixing
  • Ocelli
  • Pillow basalt
  • Plagiogranite

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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