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The most striking feature of the eastern Peninsular Ranges batholith is the large volume of relatively homogeneous tonalite and low-K granodiorite distributed in a series of large zoned Late Cretaceous intrusive centers referred to as La Posta–type plutons. The Sierra San Pedro Mártir pluton in northern Baja California is an outstanding example, and this study was undertaken to test models for the origin of these large composite arc plutons as well as to investigate along-strike variability within this Late Cretaceous belt. The Sierra San Pedro Mártir pluton consists of a nested series of granitoids divided into hornblende, biotite, and muscovite zones that become progressively more felsic and younger inward to a slightly more mafic and lower-K muscovite core zone. Zircon and monazite U/Pb ages from each of the zones indicate composite assembly of the pluton over an ~7 m.y. time span (97–90 Ma), consistent with field evidence and internal compositional variability of the pluton.

The Sierra San Pedro Mártir pluton consists of high-Na, high-Al calcic granitoids that contrast with high-K calc-alkaline granitoid intrusive suites typical of Sierra Nevada Late Cretaceous intrusive centers. Whole-rock major-element, trace-element, and rare earth element (REE) data from an ~20-km-long traverse from the margin to the core of the Sierra San Pedro Mártir pluton document compositions that closely match chemical characteristics of Archean high-Al tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG). REEs are in general strongly fractionated, with high (La/Yb)N ratios typical of high-Al TTG. However, large variations in heavy (H) REE abundances and light (L) REE/HREE abundance ratios within the Sierra San Pedro Mártir pluton are comparable to the total range of REE variability within the Peninsular Ranges attributed by previous workers to regional west to east variations across the batholith. High Sr contents and lack of strong Eu anomalies indicate a general lack of plagioclase in the source residue. Compositions are consistent with deep crustal or slab melting from a basaltic source region with residual garnet and amphibole. Hornblende-plagioclase thermobarometry indicates emplacement depths around 17 km and crystallization temperatures ranging from 650 °C to 700 °C.

Unlike La Posta–type bodies to the north, which are exclusively ilmenite-series granitoids, the Sierra San Pedro Mártir pluton is partly magnetite-series rocks in the outer hornblende zone. Ilmenite-series rocks preferentially sequester Fe in biotite via Tschermak exchange. Relatively low 87Sr/86Sr initial isotopic compositions of 0.7038–0.7050 and δ18O whole-rock values of 8.5‰ in the Sierra San Pedro Mártir pluton are more typical of the western zone of the Peninsular Ranges batholith. The along-strike variation of La Posta–type centers may be correlated to progressive distancing from Proterozoic North American cratonal basement and/or diminishing contributions of subducted sediment and associated basement into the Cretaceous melt source region of the magmas.

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