Study of the Tuolumne Intrusive Series, a concentric texturally and compositionally zoned plutonic sequence in the eastern part of Yosemite National Park, was undertaken to develop and test a model for the origin of comagmatic plutonic sequences in the Sierra Nevada batholith. The granitoid units that make up the sequence are progressively younger and more felsic inward. The bulk of the rocks are granodiorite, but the outermost formation is quartz diorite, and the innermost one is granite porphyry. The compositional gradient changes both gradually within formations and abruptly between them. The change is greatest in the outer 1 km and lower toward the center of the sequence. Hornblende and biotite, abundant in the marginal rocks, decrease rapidly inward for 1 km as K-feldspar and quartz increase, but farther inward, they decrease slowly. The most conspicuous chemical changes are shown by the elements that are enriched in the mafic minerals.
The compositional zoning indicates that with decreasing temperature, the sequence solidified from the margins inward. Solidification was interrupted repeatedly by surges of fluid core magma. The magma eroded the adjacent solidifying rock, and it expanded the area of the magma chamber at the exposed level by crowding the wall and roof rocks outward and upward and by breaking through the solidifying carapace into the wall rocks. The compositional zonation resulted from crystal fractionation that could have involved (1) preferential accretion of crystalline material present in the magma to the margins of the magma chamber, thus displacing the melt phase progressively inward, and/or (2) downward settling of crystals, probably accompanied by upward movement of melt and volatiles; the residual magma solidifying to form the granitoids. Although either mechanism can explain the observed relations, they lead to very different interpretations of the composition of the magma when the first exposed granitoids solidified at the margins of the magma chamber and as the sequence solidified inward.