Kruckenberg, S.C., Tikoff, B., Toy, V.G., Newman, J., and Young, L.
Journal of Structural Geology; 50: 133-147. doi: 10.1016/j.jsg.2012.10.009
Publication year: 2013


We present results of field, microstructural, and textural studies in the Twin Sisters ultramafic complex (Washington State) that document localized deformation associated with the formation of dunite channels in naturally deformed upper mantle. The Twin Sisters complex is a well-exposed, virtually unaltered section of upper mantle lithosphere comprised largely of dunite and harzburgite (in cm- to m-scale primary compositional layers), and variably deformed orthopyroxenite and clinopyroxenite dikes. A series of ∼N–S striking, m-scale dunite bands (typically with porphyroclastic texture) occur throughout the study area and crosscut both the primary compositional layers and older orthopyroxenite dikes. Structural relationships suggest that these dunite bands represent former zones of channelized melt migration (i.e., dunite channels), and that strain localization was associated with melt migration. Early formed orthopyroxenite dikes are either absent within cross-cutting dunite channels, or have been displaced within channels relative to their position in the adjacent host rocks. These pre-existing orthopyroxenite dikes provide strain markers illustrating that displacement was localized primarily along channel margins, which have opposite senses of shear. In all cases where offsets were noted, the center of the channel was moved southward relative to its margins. Material flow and strain was, therefore, partitioned within channels during melt migration, and dunite channels did not accommodate net shear displacement of the adjacent host peridotites. Primary compositional layers adjacent to dunite channels document opposite rotation of olivine [100] crystallographic axes on either side of channel margins, consistent with the kinematic reversal inferred from offset markers at the outcrop scale, suggesting that the formation of dunite channels also induced host rock deformation proximal to channels. Strain localization that was focused at the margin of the bands was likely facilitated by melt-induced weakening. Channelized movement within the dunite bands may have resulted from matrix compaction within channels, pressure gradients during melt migration, or a combination of these processes during coaxial deformation.