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Voluminous anorthosite intrusions are common in mid-Proterozoic crust. Historically, two end-member models have been proposed for the origin of these anorthosites. In the first model anorthosites derive from fractionation of a mantle source leaving a residue of metagabbro in the lower crust; in the second model anorthosites are the product of partial melting of the lower crust with residual pyroxene and high-grade minerals (i.e. a pyroxenitic and/or metapelitic lower crust). Although a general consensus has developed that the first model provides the best fit to petrological and geochemical constraints, the sparse evidence for mafic and ultramafic counterparts to the anorthosites leaves the issue still unresolved. We use the absolute P-wave velocity and the ratio between P- and S-wave velocities (VP/VS) to infer the composition of the lower crust beneath the Marcy Anorthosite (New York State, USA). Seismic refraction data reveal a lower crust 20 km thick, where VP and VP/VS range from top to bottom between 7.0 km s−1 and 7.2 ± 0.1 and 1.84 km s−1 and 1.81 ± 0.02, respectively. Laboratory measurements on rock samples indicate that these seismic properties are typical of plagioclase-rich rocks. Magmatic underplating of basaltic melts is a mechanism to form plagioclase-rich bulk composition for the Grenville crust. At the bottom of the lower crust, increase of P-wave velocity, slight decrease of VP/VS ratios and the presence of a low-reflective seismic Moho are additional observations supporting crustmantle interactions related to magmatic underplating. High P-wave velocity (8.6 km s−1) in the upper mantle may indicate that the ultramafic portion (e.g. pyroxenites) of the underplated magma has become eclogite. High average P-wave velocity (6.7 km s−1) and VP/VS (1.81), and the exceptional abundance of anorthosites-norites-troctolites among the rocks exposed at the surface, indicate that the Grenville Proterozoic crust may have a unique plagioclase-rich bulk composition. We suggest magmatic underplating, occurring either over a wide time span or with separate syn- and post-collisional magmatic pulses, as being a major crust-forming mechanism operating in mid-Proterozoic time.

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