Platy pyroxene: New insights into spinifex texture

Jack R. Lowrey, Tim J. Ivanic, Derek A. Wyman, Malcolm P. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


New evidence has emerged for a different type of platy spinifex texture that has not previously been documented in the existing literature, in this case from 2.8 Ga high-Mg basalts in the Murchison Domain of the Yilgarn Craton, where petrographic and geochemical evidence shows that the dominant platy mineral is pyroxene, rather than olivine. In our samples, two scales of plates are evident. Larger plates have lengths and widths that are approximately equal and range from ~1000 to 15 000 mm, with thicknesses typically ≲120 mm. These plates have ≲25 mm thick augite rims, and cores that are now a mixture of low-temperature hydrous alteration minerals. They occur in sets of similarly oriented crystals, and typically intersect other sets of crystals at oblique angles. A second population of smaller augite-only plates occur within the interstices of the larger plates; they have lengths and widths that range from 200 to 1500 mm, and thicknesses that are typically ≲50 mm. Pyroxene dendrites are also a typical component of this texture and represent a third scale of crystal growth, which probably crystallized shortly before the remaining liquid quenched to glass. All scales of pyroxene contained within this texture exhibit skeletal features and are considered to have crystallized rapidly. We discuss possible conditions that led to the crystallization of platy habits instead of the typical acicular ones. The exposed volcanic sequence in our study area is volcanologically similar to other Archean komatiites, such as those from the 2.7 Ga Abitibi greenstone belt, for example, and has probably experienced a similar cooling history; however, apart from having similar textures, we cannot demonstrate a komatiitic association. Liquid compositions, estimated from chilled flow margins, are distinctly lower in MgO (14.4-15.8wt %) and higher in SiO2 (50.9-52.1wt %) than those for most platy olivine spinifex-textured komatiites; from these compositions, we calculate dry liquidus temperatures of 1312-1342°C and mantle potential temperatures of 1440-1480°C. On the basis of these temperatures we question whether a mantle plume is a necessary element of their petrogenesis. 'Platy olivine spinifex' is an igneous texture that characterizes komatiites and its observation in outcrops or drill core (typically prior to, or in lieu of chemical analysis) leads geologists to classify a rock as a komatiite. Field descriptions may therefore drive assumptions and interpretations surrounding the prevailing tectonic or geodynamic setting at the time of emplacement. We emphasize the importance of careful discrimination between a variety of spinifex textures within a local volcanological framework and caution against the habit of making direct interpretations of rock type based on the existence of spinifex textures alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1671-1700
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


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