Abstract

Sections through an oceanic plateau are preserved in tectonic slices in the Western Cordillera of Ecuador (South America). The San Juan section is a sequence of mafic–ultramafic cumulates. To establish that these plutonic rocks formed in an oceanic plateau setting, we have developed criteria that discriminate intrusions of oceanic plateaus from those of other tectonic settings. The mineralogy and crystallization sequence of the cumulates are similar to those of intra-plate magmas. Clinopyroxene predominates throughout, and orthopyroxene is only a minor component. Rocks of intermediate composition are absent, and hornblende is restricted to the uppermost massive gabbros within the sequence. The ultramafic cumulates are very depleted in light rare-earth elements (LREE), whereas the gabbros have flat or slightly enriched LREE patterns. The composition of the basaltic liquid in equilibrium with the peridotite, calculated using olivine compositions and REE contents of clinopyroxene, contains between 16% and 8% MgO and has a flat REE pattern. This melt is geochemically similar to other accreted oceanic plateau basalts, isotropic gabbros, and differentiated sills in western Ecuador. The Ecuadorian intrusive and extrusive rocks have a narrow range of εNdi (+8 to +5) and have a rather large range of Pb isotopic ratios. Pb isotope systematics of the San Juan plutonic rocks and mineral separates lie along a mixing line between the depleted mantle (DMM) and the enriched-plume end members. This suggests that the Ecuadorian plutonic rocks generated from the mixing of two mantle sources, a depleted mid-oceanic ridge basalt (MORB) source and an enriched one. The latter is characterized by high (207Pb/204Pb)i ratios and could reflect a contamination by recycled either lower continental crust or oceanic pelagic sediments and (or) altered oceanic crust (enriched mantle type I, EMI). These data suggest that the San Juan sequence represents the plutonic components of an Early Cretaceous oceanic plateau, which accreted in the Late Cretaceous to the Ecuadorian margin.

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