Melt addition to mid-ocean ridge peridotites increases spinel Cr# with no significant effect on recorded oxygen fugacity

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Mid-ocean ridge peridotites record significantly greater variability in major and trace elements, isotopic compositions, and thermodynamic properties such as oxygen fugacity (fO2) than do their basaltic counterparts. This variability may derive from modern ridge processes related to melting and melt-rock interaction or from long-lived source heterogeneity related to recycled material or ancient melting events. In this study, we investigate variations in spinel geochemistry as well as silicate major and trace element chemistry and oxygen fugacity of a suite of peridotites from a single segment of the Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR). We present new petrographic analysis and trace element data for samples with previously-published fO2 results and combine this with new data for a suite of SWIR gabbro-veined peridotites. We find that SWIR residual lherzolites record low spinel Cr# (Cr# = 100*Cr/(Cr+Al) < 30) and represent low to moderate degrees of melting (∼5-8%) beneath the ridge axis, with no change in oxygen fugacity during melting. In contrast, a subset of SWIR peridotites with high spinel Cr# (Cr#>30) record both melt extraction as well as melt-rock interaction. In these samples, spinel Cr# has been substantially elevated by reaction of spinel to form plagioclase during melt addition, complicating the use of spinel Cr# in mid-ocean ridge peridotites as a proxy for degree of melt extraction alone. While spinel Cr# remains a robust proxy for melt extraction within residual, non-melt-influenced samples, mid-ocean ridge peridotites must first be evaluated to ensure that modification by melt-rock reaction has not occurred. Although addition of MORB melt to a peridotite residue modifies spinel Cr#, this melt addition does not result in significant changes to the fO2 recorded by the peridotite. Residual SWIR lherzolites record fO2 of 0.66±0.39 relative to the quartz-fayalite-magnetite buffer (QFM), statistically indistinguishable from melt-influenced and veined SWIR samples (QFM+1.13±0.61). In contrast to other tectonic settings, such as subduction zones, ocean islands, and continental cratons—locations where peridotite is oxidized by petrogenetically unrelated, presumably high-fO2 melts/fluids—ridge peridotites interact with MORB, which has little to no oxidizing power over its own mantle residues. Thus, modern processes beneath the ridge modify peridotite major and trace elements, but do not generate variability in oxygen fugacity.

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters