Extreme oxygen isotope zoning in garnet and zircon from a metachert block in mélange reveals metasomatism at the peak of subduction metamorphism

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A tectonic block of garnet quartzite in the amphibolite-facies mélange of the Catalina Schist (Santa Catalina Island, California, USA) records the metasomatic pre-treatment of high-δ18O sediments as they enter the subduction zone. The block is primarily quartz, but contains two generations of garnet that record extreme oxygen isotope disequilibrium and inverse fractionations between garnet cores and matrix quartz. Rare millimeter-scale garnet crystals record prograde cation zoning patterns, whereas more abundant ∼200-μm-diameter crystals have the same composition as rims on the larger garnets. Garnets of both generations have high-δ18O cores (20.8‰–26.3‰, Vienna standard mean ocean water) that require an unusually high-δ18O protolith and lower-δ18O, less variable rims (10.0‰–11.2‰). Matrix quartz values are homogeneous (13.6‰). Zircon crystals contain detrital cores (δ18O = 4.7‰–8.5‰, 124.6 +1.4/−2.9 Ma) with a characteristic igneous trace element composition likely sourced from arc volcanics, surrounded by zircon with metamorphic age (115.1 ± 2.5 Ma) and trace element compositions that suggest growth in the presence of garnet. Metamorphic zircon decreases in δ18O from near-core (24.1‰) to rim (12.4‰), in equilibrium with zoned garnets. Collectively, the data document the subduction of a mixed high-δ18O siliceous ooze and/or volcanic ash protolith reaching temperatures of 550–625 °C prior to the nucleation of small garnets without influence from external fluids. Metasomatism was recorded in rims of both garnet and zircon populations as large volumes of broadly homogeneous subduction fluids stripped matrix quartz of its extremely high oxygen isotope signature. Thus, zoned garnet and zircon in high-δ18O subducted sediments offer a detailed window into subduction fluids.


This article was originally published in Geology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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