An Origin for Harrisitic and Granular Olivine in the Rum Layered Suite, NW Scotland: a Crystal Size Distribution Study

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Abstract

Dendritic crystal morphologies occur in a number of igneous rocks and are thought to originate from the rapid growth of crystals, yet many examples of dendritic morphologies are found in plutonic igneous rocks where cooling rates should be low. Results from crystal size distribution (CSD) measurements on harrisitic olivines from Rum, Scotland, combined with estimated olivine growth rates, suggest that the characteristic skeletal hopper and branching olivines of harrisitic cumulates that are up to centimetres long, may have exceptionally short crystal growth times (several hours to several hundreds of days). This, together with very low calculated nucleation densities for harrisitic olivine, supports the interpretation of harrisite being a disequilibrium texture, developed in response to supersaturation of the magma in olivine. We propose that this supersaturation arose through undercooling of thin picrite sheets emplaced along the Rum magma chamber floor, beneath cooler resident magma. It is envisaged that the picrite sheets were largely free of suspended olivine crystals. Coupled with the olivine-enriched composition of the melt and the increasing cooling rate, this allowed homogeneous nucleation of olivine to set in at deeper undercooling and greater olivine supersaturation than if there had been plentiful suspended olivines to act as heterogeneous nuclei. The enhanced supersaturation caused rapid growth of olivine once nucleation began, with skeletal and dendritic shapes. It is suggested that the observed, interlayered sequences of harrisite and cumulus peridotite found throughout the Rum Layered Suite are a result of multiple episodes of harrisite crystallization resulting from picrite emplacement that alternated with periods of crystal growth and accumulation in the main body of magma at lesser degrees of undercooling.

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