Melting of metasomatized subcontinental lithosphere: Undersaturated mafic lavas from Rungwe, Tanzania

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This paper uses the geochemistry of primitive mafic lavas from the Rungwe volcanic province (south-western Tanzania) to infer the source mineralogy and melting history. Post-Miocene mafic lavas from Rungwe include alkali basalts, basanites, nephelinites and picrites with up to 18.9 wt% MgO; nephelinites (>13.5% normative nepheline) are restricted to Kiejo volcano in the southern portion of the province. Rungwe lavas differ from most Western Rift volcanics in that they are not unusually potassic (K2O/Na2O ca. 0.40). Sparsely phyric mafic lavas contain phenocrysts and xenocrysts of plagioclase (An82-90), clinopyroxene (4.5-9.5 wt% Al2O3), and olivine (Fo79-88); one basanite contains a 1 mm xenocryst of apatite included in magnesian clinopyroxene. All samples have high abundances of incompatible elements (e.g., 0.7-2.2 wt% P2O5) and are enriched in REE relative to HFSE (Hf, Zr, Ti, Y), Cs, Ba, and K. Some incompatible element ratios are constant throughout the Rungwe suite (e.g., Zr/Nb, Sr/Ce, K/ Rb), but other ratios are extremely variable and exceed the range measured in global Ocean Island Basalts (OIB) (e.g., Ba/Nb, Sm/Zr, La/Nb, Pb/Ce, Nb/U). The range in degree of silica saturation, and its excellent correlation with P2O5/Al2O3, indicate that the Rungwe suite records variable degrees of melting. Variations of individual incompatible trace element abundances in nephelinite and basanite samples suggest that the source contains metasomatic amphibole, ilmenite, apatite, and zircon. The Rungwe suite is interpreted as a series of low-percentage melts of CO2-rich peridotite at pressures that span the garnet-spinel transition. A geochemical comparison of Rungwe samples to lavas from other Western Rift volcanic centers requires that the source mineralogy varies along the rift axis, although each province is underlain by metasomatized peridotite. The incompatible trace element signatures of Western Rift lavas indicate that the source area is typically homogeneous on the scale of individual volcanoes, although lavas from each volcano reflect a range in degree of melting. Significantly, volcanoes with distinct geochemistry are always separated by major rift faults, suggesting that volcanic and tectonic surface features may correspond to metasomatic provinces within the subcontinental lithospheric mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-115
Number of pages19
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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