Geological, petrological and geochemical evidence for progressive construction of an Arc crustal section, sierra de valle fértil, famatinian Arc, Argentina

Juan E. Otamendi, Mihai N. Ducea, George W. Bergantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


The petrogenesis of calc-alkaline magmatism in the Famatinian arc is investigated in the central Sierra Valle Fértil, a major, lower to middle crustal section of the Early Ordovician active margin of West Gondwana. Large-scale field relationships show a gradual and continuous compositional variation of the plutonic sequence, ranging from olivine-bearing gabbronorites to hornblende- and biotite-bearing granodiorites. Distinctive lithostratigraphic units are, however, discernible as one compositional type of plutonic rock dominates over mappable areas. These results allow us to identify a continuous plutonic arc stratigraphy that progressively exposes shallower paleo-depths towards the east. At all the exposed levels, calc-alkaline plutonic rocks are volumetrically dominant, interrupted only by granulite-facies migmatites and leucogranites. The migmatites are interpreted to be refractory remnants of supracrustal sedimentary successions, whereas the peraluminous leucogranites have field relationships and chemical and isotopic compositions suggesting that they were produced via anatexis of metasedimentary packages. Mass-balance calculations predict that a parental gabbroic magma after progressive closed-system fractionation would crystallize about 80% of the original mass to yield a granodioritic daughter. Because the crystallizing mineral assemblage comprises hornblende and plagioclase, mass balance suggests a volume of residual amphibole-rich gabbroic rocks much larger than that observed, suggesting that differentiation is significantly driven by open-system processes. Indeed, the combination of field and petrographic observations with bulk-rock geochemistry and petrogenetic modeling demonstrates that most dioritic and tonalitic rocks are hybrids formed by either (1) bulk assimilation of metasedimentary materials into gabbroic magmas, or (2) multi-stage and complex interactions between gabbroic rocks and metasedimentary-derived leucogranitic melts. The source region of the granodioritic magmas is located at the transition zone between a tonalite-dominated intermediate unit and a granodiorite-dominated silicic unit. Typical granodiorites have a hornblende-bearing mineralogy, metaluminous chemical signature and isotopic compositions [ 87Sr/ 86Sr(T) = 0·7075-0·7100 and ε Nd(T) ~ -5·0] broadly overlapping those of the tonalites of the intermediate rock unit. These major compositional features of the granodiorites can be best explained if three end-member components contribute to their generation. As field observational data suggest, primitive gabbroic rocks, metaluminous intermediate magmas and anatectic leucogranitic melts mixed to produce the calc-alkaline granodiorites; however, the exact petrological process generating the granodioritic magmas is unclear because the mafic end-member may have been incorporated as mafic inclusions in the intermediate magmas or as syn-magmatic dikes, or both. The polygenetic nature of the intermediate to silicic plutonic rocks, along with the preponderance of parental gabbroic rocks at the inferred base of the plutonic column, suggests an upward growth of the intermediate to silicic crust that involved the complete reconstitution of the pre-existing crustal configuration. The main implication of this study is that intermediate and silicic plutonic rocks in the Valle Fértil section formed within a crustal column in which the mass transfer and heat input of mantle-derived magmas promoted fusion of fertile metasedimentary rocks and favored mixing of gabbroic or dioritic magmas with crustal granitic melts. Our results lend support to models asserting that the thermal and material budget of arc magmatism is primarily governed by the rate at which mafic magmas ascend from their mantle sources and intrude repeatedly into the crust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberegr079
Pages (from-to)761-800
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Active continental margin
  • Batholith construction
  • Granitoids
  • Igneous petrology
  • Open system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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