Evidence from plutonic xenoliths for magma differentiation, mixing and storage in a volatile-rich crystal mush beneath St. Eustatius, Lesser Antilles

George F. Cooper*, Jon D. Blundy, Colin G. Macpherson, Madeleine C.S. Humphreys, Jon P. Davidson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
286 Downloads (Pure)


Quantifying the storage conditions and evolution of different magmatic components within sub-volcanic plumbing systems is key to our understanding of igneous processes and products. Whereas erupted magmas represent a portion of the eruptible volcanic system, plutonic xenoliths provide a complementary record of the mushy roots of the plumbing system that cannot be mobilised easily to form lavas and consequently offer a unique record of magma diversity within the sub-volcanic plumbing system. Here, we present a detailed petrological and geochemical study of erupted plutonic xenoliths from the island of Sint Eustatius (Statia), in the northern Lesser Antilles volcanic arc. The plutonic xenoliths are predominantly gabbroic, but vary in texture, mineral assemblage and crystallisation sequence. We report major, trace and volatile (H 2 O and CO 2 ) concentrations of xenolith-hosted melt inclusions (MIs) and interstitial glass. The MIs have a very large range in major element (49–78 wt% SiO 2 and 0.1–6.1 wt% MgO) and trace element concentration (72–377 ppm Sr, 32–686 ppm Ba, 39–211 ppm Zr). Their chemistry varies systematically with host phase and sample type. Significantly, it shows that (1) plutonic xenoliths record a complete differentiation sequence from basalt to rhyolite (2) apatite, but not zircon, saturation was reached during crystallisation, (3) amphibole breakdown reactions play a role in the genesis of shallow gabbronorite assemblages, and (4) mixing between crystal cargos and multiple discrete bodies occurred. Residual melt volatile contents are high (≤ 9.1 wt% H 2 O and ≤ 1350 ppm CO 2 ), returning volatile saturation pressures of 0–426 MPa. Multiple reaction geobarometry and experimental comparisons indicate that equilibration took place in the upper-middle crust (0–15 km). We infer that the Statia plutonic xenoliths represent portions of a large heterogeneous crystal mush within which a great diversity of melts was stored and mixed prior to eruption. Our data show that compositional variations in magmatic plumbing systems exceed those observed in volcanic products, a likely consequence of the blending that occurs prior to and during eruption.

Original languageEnglish
Article number39
Number of pages24
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number5
Early online date6 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2019


  • Crystal mush
  • Cumulate
  • Lesser Antilles
  • Melt inclusions
  • St. Eustatius
  • Xenolith


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