2017 Volume 112 Issue 2 Pages 59-76
A partially serpentinized peridotite from the Josephine ophiolite has been studied in detail in order to characterize the chemical processes of its serpentinization. The original rock was harzburgite, and its olivine and orthopyroxene are partially replaced by veins and patches of lizardite serpentine and magnetite; brucite and talc are completely absent from the serpentinite, regardless of whether the precursor mineral was olivine or pyroxene. Petrographic and mineral–chemical data suggest at least two phases of serpentinization. Incipient serpentinization produced lizardite and magnetite veinlets, from preferential dissolution of orthopyroxene, and/or infiltration of a silica–rich fluid. No talc or brucite was produced, which suggests this serpentinization happened in a chemically open system. Later serpentinization was from a fluid closer to Fe–Mg–Si chemical equilibrium with the harzburgite, which should in theory favor formation of a brucite–bearing serpentinite. Brucite is absent from late serpentine veins, but they have some porosity which could represent former brucite that was dissolved out or was reacted out after serpentinization. Isocon modeling suggests that Si, Fe, and K were added during serpentinization and that Ca was lost; i.e., the serpentinization was not isochemical (except for H2O). Results of petrographic observations, thermodynamic modeling, and mass balance calculations were used to constrain the reactions for global serpentinization of the studied sample. These reactions indicate that water with a concentration of H2 up to two times that of deep sea vent fluids may have been produced during the serpentinization of the Josephine peridotite, which could then have been a potential host for significant biomass.