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In the Vannes and St. Nazaire regions of the central part of the Domaine Sud-Armoricain, Variscan belt, western France, the lowermost tectonic unit is exposed as structural culminations composed of supracrustal migmatites that were deformed and metamorphosed along a multistep clockwise P-T path during Carboniferous time; peak P-T was around 800 °C at 9 kbar. The strain field that emerged under subsolidus conditions during prograde metamorphism controlled the initial distribution of granite melt produced by suprasolidus mica breakdown; the limited retrograde reaction of peritectic garnet indicates that melt loss occurred around the metamorphic peak. A second episode of melt production occurred during the retrograde evolution due to a decompression event that led to interconnection of melt in a mesoscale network of deformation bands and formation of ductile opening-mode fractures, as evidenced by layer-parallel and transverse leucosomes linked with petrographic continuity to granite in dykes. The preservation of peritectic cordierite with only limited associated leucosome and the occurrence of pucker structures without leucosome both indicate that melt loss occurred during the second event. Dykes vary from centimetric (common) to hundreds of metres in width (rare), and exhibit scale-invariance over a limited range of measurements; larger dykes are inferred to have fed upper crustal plutons. Melt extraction may have been a self-organized critical phenomenon, but this remains to be demonstrated satisfactorily in nature. Fugitive melt was trapped in the vicinity of the brittle—ductile transition zone and emplaced laterally along horizons reactivated as extensional detachments. A feedback relation is postulated between dextral transtensive deformation, decompression melting and lower crustal doming, and between dome amplification, melt extraction and emplacement in developing extensional detachments and core complex formation.

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