Magma evolution beneath Bequia, Lesser Antilles, deduced from petrology of lavas and plutonic xenoliths

Michal Camejo-Harry, Elena Melekhova, Jon Blundy, William Attridge, Richard Robertson, Thomas Christopher

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Extrusive and intrusive igneous rocks represent different parts of a magmatic system and ultimately provide complementary information about the processes operating beneath volcanoes. To shed light on such processes, we have examined and quantified the textures and mineral compositions of plutonic and cumulate xenoliths and lavas from Bequia, Lesser Antilles arc. Both suites contain assemblages of iddingsitized olivine, plagioclase, clinopyroxene and spinel with rare orthopyroxene and ilmenite. Mineral zoning is widespread, but more protracted in lavas than xenoliths. Plagioclase cores and olivine have high anorthite (An ≤ 98) and low forsterite (Fo ≤ 84) compositions respectively, implying crystallisation from a hydrous mafic melt that was already fractionated. Xenolith textures range from adcumulate to orthocumulate with variable mineral crystallisation sequences. Textural criteria are used to organize the xenoliths into six groups. Amphibole, notably absent from lavas, is a common feature of xenoliths, together with minor biotite and apatite. Bulk compositions of xenoliths deviate from the liquid line of descent of lavas supporting a cumulate origin with varying degrees of reactive infiltration by evolved hydrous melts, preserved as melt inclusions in xenolith crystals. Volatile saturation pressures in melt inclusions indicate cumulate crystallization over a 162–571 MPa pressure range under conditions of high dissolved water contents (up to 7.8 wt% H2O), consistent with a variety of other thermobarometric estimates. Phase assemblages of xenoliths are consistent with published experimental data on volatile-saturated low-magnesium and high-alumina basalts and basaltic andesite from the Lesser Antilles at pressures of 200–1000 MPa, temperatures of 950–1050 °C and dissolved H2O contents of 4–7 wt%. Once extracted from mid-crustal mushes, residual melts ascend to higher levels and undergo H2O-saturated crystallization in shallow, pre-eruptive reservoirs to form phenocrysts and glomerocrysts. The absence of amphibole from lavas reflects instability at low pressures, whereas its abundance in xenoliths testifies to its importance in mid-crustal differentiation processes. A complex, vertically extensive (6 to at least 21 km depth) magmatic system is inferred beneath Bequia. Xenoliths represent fragments of the mush incorporated into ascending magmas. The widespread occurrence of evolved melts in the mush, but the absence of erupted evolved magmas, in contrast to islands in the northern Lesser Antilles, may reflect the relative immaturity of the Bequia magmatic system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number77
Number of pages26
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Early online date8 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Lesser Antilles
  • Bequia
  • Grenadines
  • Xenoliths
  • Cumulates
  • Amphibole


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