We investigate the shallow plumbing system of the Deccan Traps Large Igneous Province using rock and mineral data from Giant Plagioclase Basalt (GPB) lava flows from around the entire province, but with a focus on the Saurashtra Peninsula, the Malwa Plateau, and the base and top of the Western Ghats (WG) lava pile. GPB lavas in the WG typically occur at the transition between chemically distinct basalt formations. Most GPB samples are evolved basalts, with high Fe and Ti contents, and show major and trace elements and Sr-Nd-Pb isotopic compositions generally similar to those of previously studied Deccan basalts. Major element modeling suggests that high-Fe, evolved melts typical of GPB basalts may derive from less evolved Deccan basalts by low-pressure fractional crystallization in a generally dry magmatic plumbing system. The basalts are strongly porphyritic, with 6–25% of mm- to cm-sized plagioclase megacrysts, frequently occurring as crystal clots, plus relatively rare olivine and clinopyroxene. The plagioclase crystals are mostly labradoritic, but some show bytownitic cores (general range of anorthite mol%: 78–55). A common feature is a strong Fe enrichment at the plagioclase rims, indicating interaction with an Fe-rich melt similar to that represented by the matrix compositions (FeOt up to 16–17 wt%). Plagioclase minor and trace elements and Sr isotopic compositions analyzed by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry show evidence of a hybrid and magma mixing origin. In particular, several plagioclase crystals show variable 87Sr/86Sri, which only partially overlaps with the 87Sr/86Sri of the surrounding matrix. Diffusion modeling suggests residence times of decades to centuries for most plagioclase megacrysts. Notably, some plagioclase crystal clots show textural evidence of deformation as recorded by electron back-scatter diffraction analyses and chemical maps, which suggest that the plagioclase megacrysts were deformed in a crystal-rich environment in the presence of melt. We interpret the plagioclase megacrysts as remnants of a crystal mush originally formed in the shallow plumbing system of the Deccan basalts. In this environment, plagioclase acquired a zoned composition due to the arrival of chemically distinct basaltic magmas. Prior to eruption, a rapidly rising but dense Fe-rich magma was capable of disrupting the shallow level crystal mush, remobilizing part of it and carrying a cargo of buoyant plagioclase megacrysts. Our findings suggest that basaltic magmas from the Deccan Traps, and possibly from LIPs in general, are produced within complex transcrustal magmatic plumbing systems with widespread crystal mushes developed in the shallow crust.
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