Abstract

In the Wet Mountains of central Colorado, we document evidence for increasing metamorphic grade and associated higher amounts of partial melting along a transect from northwest to southeast. Field observations of structural orientation and style, qualitative assessment of strain intensity, analysis of metamorphic mineral assemblages, and macroscopic identification of leucosomes and migmatites are complemented by the use of melt microstructures to carefully document the presence and locations of former partial melt and to identify melt-producing reactions. In the northwest Wet Mountains, migmatitic foliation is moderately well developed, and partial melting occurred via granite wet melting and muscovite-dehydration melting, with rare melt pseudomorphs remaining. At Dawson Mountain in the central part of the range, inferred former melt channels are preserved along grain and subgrain boundaries, deformation appears more intense, and anatexis occurred through biotite-dehydration melting. Farthest to the south, the highest intensity of strain is inferred, with very closely spaced foliations, abundant dynamic recrystallization, and local mylonitization occurring in rocks of granitic composition, and partial melting occurring via granite wet melting. Metapelitic rocks experienced biotite-dehydration melting and contain garnet with Mn-rich rims and Mn-poor cores mantled by plagioclase, decussate biotite, and quartz, textures indicating back-reaction between melt and garnet. These textures indicate there was abundant melt within these highest-grade rocks and extensive melt-rock interaction. Throughout the Wet Mountains, deformation is concentrated in areas where melt-producing reactions occurred, and melt appears to be localized along deformation-related features, suggesting a correlation between partial melting and deformation. The northern Wet Mountains contain few plutons, whereas the central and southern portions of the Wet Mountains contain more pervasive dikes and sills and may contain more former melt as a result of both higher metamorphic grade and widespread thermal insulation. The Wet Mountains represent an exhumed section of formerly molten middle crust located at the transition between upper and lower crust and provide insight into processes ongoing at depth in modern orogenic belts. The microstructures indicative of former partial melt, textures associated with melt-rock interaction, and melting reactions we have identified in the Wet Mountains will greatly facilitate the recognition of other such exhumed sections.

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