Ultradeep (>300 Kilometers) Ultramafic Xenoliths: Petrological Evidence from the Transition Zone

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Science  10 May 1991:
Vol. 252, Issue 5007, pp. 827-830
DOI: 10.1126/science.252.5007.827


The seismologically delineated transition zone, at depths between 400 and 670 kilometers, is a fundamental discontinuity in the earth that separates the upper mantle from the lower mantle. Xenoliths from within or close to the transition zone are dominated by pyropic garnet and associated pyroxene or mineralogically heterogeneous garnet lherzolite. These xenoliths show evidence for the high-pressure (90 to 120 kilobars) transformation of pyroxene to a solid solution of pyroxene in garnet (majorite) and silicon in octahedral coordination; low-pressure (less than 80 kilobars) exsolution of clinopyroxene or orthopyroxene from the original majorite is preserved. Although mineral modes and rock proportions below the transition zone and the relative amount of eclogite present cannot be accurately assessed from the xenoliths, it is likely that both majorite and β-spinel help produce the observed seismic gradient of the transition zone.

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