Meta-Rodingite Dikes as Recorders of Subduction Zone Metamorphism and Serpentinite Dehydration: Voltri Ophiolite, Italy

Document Type


Publication Date



The metamorphic devolatilization of serpentinites during subduction represents the largest potential source of fluids from the subducting slab and influences a range of important processes from subduction zone seismicity to arc magmatism. Obtaining a record of metamorphic dehydration directly from serpentinites, however, is challenging, as serpentinite mineral assemblages are less conducive to extracting a detailed pressure-temperature-time (P-T-t) history. In this study, we use meta-rodingites (metasomatized gabbros) from the central portion of the Voltri Ophiolite in the Ligurian Alps (Italy), to investigate the P-T and geochronological record of subduction metamorphism and dehydration within the adjacent serpentinites. These meta-rodingites underwent eclogite-facies metamorphic recrystallization to a garnet-clinopyroxene-chlorite-ilmenite assemblage, and are cross-cut by several generations of garnet-bearing veins. A comparison of the Voltri meta-rodingites with un-subducted seafloor rodingites from the Apennines reveals textural and geochemical evidence of complete metamorphic recrystallization of the original seafloor metasomatic assemblage during Alpine subduction. Phase equilibria modeling of the Voltri meta-rodingite sample suggests that the peak metamorphic assemblage recorded was stable in the range of ~450–600 °C, which is consistent with previous P-T estimates for gabbroic and ultramafic lithologies from the Voltri Ophiolite. A late prograde to peak metamorphic age of 40.6 ± 2.9 Ma was obtained from the meta-rodingite using Sm–Nd garnet geochronology, which closely matches the ages of late prograde to peak metamorphism estimated by companion studies of associated eclogites from the central part of the Voltri Ophiolite. The overlap in P-T conditions and timing of peak metamorphism for samples across the area suggests subduction and exhumation of the central part of the Voltri Ophiolite as a coherent lithospheric slice. Dating of a garnetite vein cross-cutting the main meta-rodingite body suggests an influx of fluid at 37.7 ± 1.4 Ma, at or near peak eclogite-facies conditions. Enrichment in the vein selvage of both compatible transition metals (Cr, Ni, Cu) and fluid-mobile elements (Li, Rb, Cs, Ba) suggests the fluid carried both serpentinite and sedimentary geochemical signatures and interacted with the main meta-rodingite body. We suggest that the most probable explanation for this fluid composition, and thus the source of the fluid, is the dehydration of the Voltri serpentinites. These serpentinites likely experienced an influx of sedimentary-derived, fluid-mobile-element-bearing fluids earlier in their history, either on the seafloor or most likely during the early stages of subduction. The presence of a sedimentary signature in this serpentinite-derived fluid emphasizes the importance of subducted serpentinites and their dehydration to the geochemical cycling of fluid-mobile elements in subduction zones. The widespread development of such vein systems within multiple meta-rodingites across the Voltri Ophiolite points to a large-scale fluid release event, likely resulting from the partial dehydration of brucite and antigorite within the surrounding serpentinite hosts. By utilizing direct dating of vein mineralogy formed during serpentinite dehydration, we provide one of the first geochronological records of serpentinite dehydration and fluid release occurring during subduction.


For a complete list of authors, please see the article.