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Concept: Metamorphic rock


Large earthquakes occur in rocks undergoing high-pressure/low-temperature metamorphism during subduction. Rhythmic major-element zoning in garnet is a common product of such metamorphism, and one that must record a fundamental subduction process. We argue that rhythmic major-element zoning in subduction zone garnets from the Franciscan Complex, California, developed in response to growth-dissolution cycles driven by pressure pulses. Using electron probe microanalysis and novel techniques in Raman and synchrotron Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy, we demonstrate that at least four such pressure pulses, of magnitude 100-350 MPa, occurred over less than 300,000 years. These pressure magnitude and time scale constraints are most consistent with the garnet zoning having resulted from periodic overpressure development-dissipation cycles, related to pore-fluid pressure fluctuations linked to earthquake cycles. This study demonstrates that some metamorphic reactions can track individual earthquake cycles and thereby opens new avenues to the study of seismicity.

Concepts: Earth, Geology, Earthquake, Garnet, Metamorphic rock, Seismology, Subduction, Earthquakes


Tectonic forces and surface erosion lead to the exhumation of rocks from the Earth’s interior. Those rocks can be characterized by many variables including peak pressure and temperature, composition and exhumation duration. Among them, the duration of exhumation in different geological settings can vary by more than ten orders of magnitude (from hours to billion years). Constraining the duration is critical and often challenging in geological studies particularly for rapid magma ascent. Here, we show that the time information can be reconstructed using a simple combination of laser Raman spectroscopic data from mineral inclusions with mechanical solutions for viscous relaxation of the host. The application of our model to several representative geological settings yields best results for short events such as kimberlite magma ascent (less than ~4,500 hours) and a decompression lasting up to ~17 million years for high-pressure metamorphic rocks. This is the first precise time information obtained from direct microstructural observations applying a purely mechanical perspective. We show an unprecedented geological value of tiny mineral inclusions as timekeepers that contributes to a better understanding on the large-scale tectonic history and thus has significant implications for a new generation of geodynamic models.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Sedimentary rock, Igneous rock, Rock, Geology, Metamorphic rock, Magma


The deeply eroded West Gondwana Orogen is a major continental collision zone that exposes numerous occurrences of deeply subducted rocks, such as eclogites. The position of these eclogites marks the suture zone between colliding cratons, and the age of metamorphism constrains the transition from subduction-dominated tectonics to continental collision and mountain building. Here we investigate the metamorphic conditions and age of high-pressure and ultrahigh-pressure eclogites from Mali, Togo and NE-Brazil and demonstrate that continental subduction occurred within 20 million years over at least a 2,500-km-long section of the orogen during the Ediacaran. We consider this to be the earliest evidence of large-scale deep-continental subduction and consequent appearance of Himalayan-scale mountains in the geological record. The rise and subsequent erosion of such mountains in the Late Ediacaran is perfectly timed to deliver sediments and nutrients that are thought to have been necessary for the subsequent evolution of sustainable life on Earth.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Sedimentary rock, Geology, Metamorphic rock, Subduction, Orogeny, Geological processes


The mineral zircon through its isotopic and elemental signatures comprises the greatest archive recording the evolution of Earth’s continental crust. Recognising primary from secondary zircon compositional signatures is thus important for the accurate interpretation of this archive. We report two examples of metasedimentary rocks from high-grade shear zones within the Southern Granulite Belt of India, where anomalously high and homogeneous oxygen isotope signatures indicate disturbance of this isotopic system. Utilising the combined U-Pb-Hf-O and trace element signatures from these zircon grains, we postulate that fluid-assisted alteration has led to complete resetting of the oxygen isotope signatures. This case study presents a rarely observed natural example of potentially fast diffusion of oxygen under hydrous conditions. Given the pervasive nature of fluid interaction within high-grade and highly deformed rocks, we expect that such isotopic disturbance might be more common to nature than is currently reported. A lack of correlation between isotopic disturbance with cathodoluminescence or Th/U values, suggests that these altered zircon grains would not clearly be classified as metamorphic, in which case they would be expected to yield primary compositions. Caution is therefore advised when using detrital δ18O zircon compilations without a high level of scrutiny for primary versus secondary compositions.

Concepts: Earth, Sedimentary rock, Igneous rock, Chemical element, Isotope, Metamorphic rock, Granite, Zircon


Nearly pure N2fluid inclusions (Th(L) = -151~-168 °C; Th(V) = ~150.3 °C) were identified in W-mineralized quartz veins from the Yangjingou scheelite deposit, in the eastern Yanbian area, NE China. Other fluid inclusion populations include N2-CO2, NaCl-H2O ± N2and CO2 ± N2-NaCl-H2O, but no hydrocarbons were detected. The host rocks are part of the Wudaogou Group metamorphic series, which mainly consist of Ca-rich mica schist. Subhedral sulfide minerals occur in early disseminated W-mineralized quartz veins, or have partially replaced early scheelite. ThN2and ThN2-H2Oindicate N2fluid-trapping from 315 °C to 410 °C and from 80 MPa to 350 MPa. Oxygen and hydrogen isotopic data (δD = -74.9‰~-77‰, δ18O = 9.6‰~12‰, V-SMOW) suggest that the mineralizing fluids were composed of mixed magmatic and metamorphic water, N2-rich inclusions (δ15N = -0.5‰ to 1.4‰) indicate fluid-rock interaction with metamorphic rocks. The N2-rich fluid was closely associated with scheelite precipitation. During thermal decomposition under high oxygen fugacity conditions, which occurred synchronously with metamorphism and magmatic activity, large amounts of N2were liberated from NH4+-micas, which then accumulated in the parent fluid of the quartz scheelite veins.

Concepts: Sedimentary rock, Quartz, Metamorphic rock, Shale, Schist


Finding traces of ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) metamorphism in the geological record has huge implications for unravelling Earth’s geodynamic evolution, such as the onset of deep subduction. Usually, UHP rocks are identified by specific mineral inclusions like coesite and characteristic petrographic features resulting from its (partial) transformation to the lower-pressure polymorph quartz in thin sections of crystalline rocks. This approach relies on very small sample size and is thus limited to a few points within large regions. Here we present the first findings of coesite inclusions in detrital mineral grains. The intact monomineralic inclusions were detected in garnets from a modern sand sample from the Western Gneiss Region, SW Norway. They represent the first known intact monomineralic coesite inclusions in the Western Gneiss Region, and their presence is suggested to indicate the erosion of UHP rocks in the sampled catchment area. The novel approach introduced here allows for tracing UHP metamorphic rocks and their erosional products at the catchment scale instead of being limited to outcrops of crystalline rocks. It opens new avenues for the prospective exploration of UHP metamorphism in Earth’s geological record.

Concepts: Sample size, Earth, Sedimentary rock, Mineral, Geology, Quartz, Garnet, Metamorphic rock


Germanium is considered to be a non-essential element; however, little is still known about its significance for living organisms. It exerts prophylactic and therapeutic effects in the treatment of serious diseases such as cancer, HIV infection, and others. Germanium does not exhibit acute toxicity, but, as it tends to accumulate in various organs and tissues, undesirable and even dangerous side effects have been reported after prolonged and/or high dosage application. In general, inorganic compounds of germanium are more toxic than its organic compounds. Further studies should be performed to elucidate the exact molecular mechanism of germanium action, to determine the safe and effective dose of germanium via curative/mineral waters, and to understand the applications and benefits of using germanium-enriched waters in balneotherapy. The geochemistry of curative (cold CO2-rich, thermal) waters from spas in the Sudetes (Poland) was clarified in terms of components and mineral phases which might govern germanium. Germanium and silicon in thermal (above 20 °C) waters presumably result from the solubility of silicates in crystalline (granites, gneisses) aquifer rocks and might be controlled by neo-formed quartz. The cold CO2-rich waters revealed a significant diversity of aqueous chemistry and relationships of germanium with iron, silicon, or arsenic. Locally, both in sedimentary (sandstones) and metamorphic (gneisses) aquifer rocks, primary (silicates) and/or secondary (oxides) iron-containing minerals likely release germanium into solution. In the CO2-rich waters of the western part of the Kłodzko Region, germanium distinctly correlates with arsenic. It is hypothesized that both elements are co-sourced from crystalline basement and/or migration of substances of post-magmatic origin along deep-seated dislocations related to the seismically active Poříčí-Hronov fault zone. This area was proposed as the most prospective one for finding waters rich in germanium in the Sudetes.

Concepts: Oxygen, Chemistry, Organic compound, Mineral, Silicon, Quartz, Metamorphic rock, Granite


The metamorphic conditions and mechanisms required to induce foundering in deep arc crust are assessed using an example of representative lower crust in SW New Zealand. Composite plutons of Cretaceous monzodiorite and gabbro were emplaced at ~1.2 and 1.8 GPa are parts of the Western Fiordland Orthogneiss (WFO); examples of the plutons are tectonically juxtaposed along a structure that excised ~25 km of crust. The 1.8 GPa Breaksea Orthogneiss includes suitably dense minor components (e.g. eclogite) capable of foundering at peak conditions. As the eclogite facies boundary has a positive dP/dT, cooling from supra-solidus conditions (T > 950 ºC) at high-P should be accompanied by omphacite and garnet growth. However, a high monzodioritic proportion and inefficient metamorphism in the Breaksea Orthogneiss resulted in its positive buoyancy and preservation. Metamorphic inefficiency and compositional relationships in the 1.2 GPa Malaspina Pluton meant it was never likely to have developed densities sufficiently high to founder. These relationships suggest that the deep arc crust must have primarily involved significant igneous accumulation of garnet-clinopyroxene (in proportions >75%). Crustal dismemberment with or without the development of extensional shear zones is proposed to have induced foundering of excised cumulate material at P > 1.2 GPa.

Concepts: Sedimentary rock, Igneous rock, Geology, Garnet, Metamorphic rock, Basalt, Granite, Orogeny


The interaction of oil shale, as a widespread sedimentary rock, with common antibiotics ofloxacine, oxytetracycline, and ciprofloxacine was studied. The selected Moroccan deposit and its thermally treated forms were fully characterized from a chemical and structural point of view, indicating the prevalence of quartz as a mineral component together with aluminum- and iron-rich phase that are converted into Al-doped iron oxide phases upon heating. The presence of 4 wt% organics was also detected, which was removed at 550 °C without significant loss of specific surface area. The pseudo-second-order kinetic model and Langmuir equation were found the most adequate to reproduce the kinetics and isothermal sorption experiments. These analyses enlighten the contribution of the organic matter on antibiotic retention as well as the key role of hydrophobic interactions on the molecule-mineral surface interactions. Our results emphasize the possible contribution of raw oil shale in the accumulation of antibiotics in soils and suggest that thermally treated oil shell powders can constitute cheap mineral sorbents for environmental cleaning.

Concepts: Sedimentary rock, Mineral, Rock, Geology, Quartz, Surface chemistry, Metamorphic rock, Shale


Low-temperature serpentinization is a critical process with respect to Earth’s habitability and the Solar System. Exothermic serpentinization reactions commonly produce hydrogen as a direct by-product and typically produce short-chained organic compounds indirectly. Here, we present the spectral and mineralogical variability in rocks from the serpentine-driven Lost City Hydrothermal Field on Earth and the olivine-rich region of Nili Fossae on Mars. Near- and thermal-infrared spectral measurements were made from a suite of Lost City rocks at wavelengths similar to those for instruments collecting measurements of the martian surface. Results from Lost City show a spectrally distinguishable suite of Mg-rich serpentine, Ca carbonates, talc, and amphibole minerals. Aggregated detections of low-grade metamorphic minerals in rocks from Nili Fossae were mapped and yielded a previously undetected serpentine exposure in the region. Direct comparison of the two spectral suites indicates similar mineralogy at both Lost City and in the Noachian (4-3.7 Ga) bedrock of Nili Fossae, Mars. Based on mapping of these spectral phases, the implied mineralogical suite appears to be extensive across the region. These results suggest that serpentinization was once an active process, indicating that water and energy sources were available, as well as a means for prebiotic chemistry during a time period when life was first emerging on Earth. Although the mineralogical assemblages identified on Mars are unlikely to be directly analogous to rocks that underlie the Lost City Hydrothermal Field, related geochemical processes (and associated sources of biologically accessible energy) were once present in the subsurface, making Nili Fossae a compelling candidate for a once-habitable environment on Mars. Key Words: Mars-Habitability-Serpentinization-Analogue. Astrobiology 17, xxx-xxx.

Concepts: Sedimentary rock, Solar System, Mars, Mineral, Mineralogy, Petrology, Metamorphic rock, Serpentinite