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Volume 18 Issue 11 (November 2009)

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Article, pp. 4-10 | PDF (1.38MB)

The significance of sheeted dike complexes in ophiolites

Paul T. Robinson1*, John Malpas1, Yildirim Dilek2, Mei-fu Zhou1

1 Dept. of Earth Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong;
2 Dept. of Geology, Miami University, 114 Shideler Hall, Oxford, Ohio 45056, USA

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Sheeted dike complexes, in which dike intrudes dike without intermediate screens of gabbro or pillow lava, have long been considered key features of oceanic lithosphere and ophiolites formed in extensional environments. The presence of a sheeted complex implies an approximate balance between spreading rate and magma supply, such that there is just enough melt to fill newly formed fractures produced by spreading. Such a balance appears to exist at mid-ocean ridges, where both the spreading rate and magma supply are probably linked to mantle convection, and thus sheeted dikes appear to be a major part of the ocean crust. In contrast, ophiolites, which are formed or modified in suprasubduction zone environments, rarely have large, well-developed sheeted dike complexes, because magma supply and spreading rate are not linked in the same way. In suprasubduction zone environments, the spreading rate is controlled largely by the rate of slab rollback, whereas the magma supply is controlled by the local temperature profile, the lithology of the subducting crust and mantle wedge, the history and degree of melting of the mantle source, and the abundance and nature of fluids. Because spreading rate and magma supply are rarely balanced in these environments, we suggest that sheeted dikes, rather than being key elements of ophiolites, may instead be unusual features in such bodies. Thus, care must be exercised in using ophiolites to investigate spreading processes at mid-ocean ridges.

Manuscript received 23 March 2007; accepted 8 July 2008.

doi: 10.1130/GSATG22A.1

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