Mafic dike swarms in the South Shetland Islands volcanic arc: Unravelling multiepisodic magmatism related to subduction and continental rifting

Eight groups of mafic dikes and related high-level stocks cut Triassic accretionary complex and Mesozoic magmatic arc formations on Livingston Island. Some are affected by silicic/sericitic alteration, related to Cretaceous hydrothermal activity, and propylitic/epidosite alteration, analogous to that in ocean floor sheeted dikes. Alteration was accompanied by major and trace element metasomatism. Ar-Ar analysis of the freshest rocks indicates five intrusive events, some of which are unexpectedly young. Groups 1–3 were intruded in the mid to late Cretaceous (∼108–74 Ma) and were coeval with the calc-alkaline arc. Between 70 and 50 Ma, relatively rapid and oblique plate convergence led to strike-slip tectonism and a pause in magmatism. At ∼52 Ma, orthogonal, slow convergence resulted in extensional faulting and emplacement of calc-alkaline (group 2) and primitive tholeiitic dikes (groups 4–6) between 51 and 45 Ma. Extension of Antarctic Peninsula-southern South American crust culminated in emplacement of mafic to intermediate, medium-grained plutons and group C porphyries between 44 and 36 Ma. Localized hydrothermal flow along fault zones resulted in partial to complete argon loss from nearby Cretaceous lavas and Ar-Ar reset ages of ∼40 Ma in mid-Cretaceous hydrothermal K-feldspar. Primitive olivine basalts (group D) and epithermal carbonate veins (31–29 Ma) were emplaced during along-arc extension accompanying the opening of Drake Passage and Powell Basin. Excess argon occurs in two forms: strongly held in melt? inclusions in the primitive tholeiites and weakly held in some secondary alteration. There is no radiometric evidence, in the area studied, for magmatism related to late Cenozoic subduction, nor to the Pleistocene-Recent opening of the back arc Bransfield rift.


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Authors: Willan, Robert C. R., Kelley, Simon P.

1 January, 1999
Journal of Geophysical Research / 104
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