Abstract

Transmission electron microscopy observations and rock magnetic measurements reveal that alteration of fine- and large-grained iron-titanium oxides can occur at different rates. Fine-grained titanomagnetite occurs as a crystallization product within interstitial glass that originated as an immiscible liquid within a fully differentiated melt; in several samples with ages to 32 Ma it displays very little or no oxidation (z ≈ 0). In contrast, samples with ages of 10 Ma or older are observed to also contain highly oxidized (z ≥ 0.66) large-grained titanomaghemite. These large grains, having originated by direct crystallization from melt, are associated with pore space. Such pore space can serve as a conduit for fluids that promote alteration, whereas fine grains may have been “armored” against alteration by the glass matrix in which they are embedded. Apparently, alteration of oceanic crust is a heterogeneous process on a microscopic scale. The existence of pristine, fine-grained titanomagnetite in the interstitial glass of older ocean-floor basalts that have undergone significant alteration implies that such glassy material is capable of carrying original thermal remanent magnetization and may be suitable for paleointensity determinations.

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