Trace-element geochemistry of transform-fault serpentinite in high-pressure subduction mélanges (eastern Cuba): implications for subduction initiation

J. Cárdenas-Párraga, A. García-Casco, J. A. Proenza, G. E. Harlow, I. F. Blanco-Quintero, C. Lázaro, Cristina Villanova-de-Benavent, K. Núñez Cambra

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The Sierra del Convento and La Corea mélanges (eastern Cuba) are vestiges of a Cretaceous subduction channel in the Caribbean realm. Both mélanges contain blocks of oceanic crust and serpentinite subducted to high pressure within a serpentinite matrix. The bulk composition of serpentinite indicates spinel-harzburgite and -herzolite protoliths. The samples preserve fertile protolith signatures that suggest low melting degrees. High concentration of immobile elements Zr, Th, Nb, and REE contents (from ~0.1 to ~2 CI-chondrite) point to early melt–rock interaction processes before serpentinization took place. Major- and trace-element compositions suggest an oceanic fracture-zone–transform-fault setting. A mild negative Eu anomaly in most samples indicates low-temperature fluid–rock interaction as a likely consequence of seawater infiltration during oceanic serpentinization. A second, more important, serpentinization stage is related to enrichment in U, Pb, Cs, Ba, and Sr due to the infiltration of slab-derived fluids. The mineral assemblages are mainly formed by antigorite, lizardite, and chlorite, with local minor talc, tremolite, anthophyllite, dolomite, brucite, and relict orthopyroxene. The local presence of anthophyllite and the replacements of lizardite by antigorite indicate a metamorphic evolution from the cooling of peridotite/serpentinite at the oceanic context to mild heating and compression in a subduction setting. We propose that serpentinites formed at an oceanic transform-fault setting that was the locus of subduction initiation of the Proto-Caribbean basin below the Caribbean plate during early Cretaceous times. Onset of subduction at the fracture zone allowed the preservation of abyssal transform-fault serpentinites at the upper plate, whereas limited downward drag during mature subduction placed the rocks in the subduction channel where they tectonically mixed with the upward-migrating accreted block of the subducted Proto-Caribbean oceanic crust. Hence, we suggest that relatively fertile serpentinites of high-pressure mélanges were witness to the onset of subduction at an oceanic transform-fault setting.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2041-2064
    Number of pages24
    JournalInternational Geology Review
    Issue number16
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2017


    • Caribbean
    • Cuba
    • high-P mélanges
    • Serpentinite
    • subduction initiation
    • transform-fault


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