Abstract: Experimental data from the system CaO-MgO-Na2O-Al2O3-SiO2 and from the system CaO-MgO-FeO-Al2O3-SiO2 are used to show the nature of the changes in composition, with temperature and with pressure, of liquids in equilibrium with augite, plagioclase, and olivine as MgO in the system CaO-MgO-Al2O3-SiO2 is partially replaced by FeO and as Na2O replaces CaO. As differentiation of tholeiitic basalts proceeds, Fe/Mg increases, Na/Ca increases, and normative hypersthene increases and these effects alter the solubilities, and hence the proportions of augite, plagioclase, and olivine which co-precipitate. In particular olivine becomes more soluble (less is precipitated) as Fe/Mg increases; plagioclase becomes more soluble but augite less soluble as Na/(Na + Ca) increases; augite also becomes less soluble as normative hypersthene increases, and as pressure is reduced during ascent.
Experimental data from remelted ocean tholeiites encounter the same equilibrium and are presented and compared with the data from synthetic systems.
Some natural examples of daughter liquids related to parents by crystallization of augite, plagioclase, olivine, are combined with the experimental data and with some model calculations to demonstrate that only a very limited range of proportions of augite : plagioclase: olivine (approximately 30 : 50 : 15 to 20 : 60: 20) produces daughter liquids which lie on the major element variation of the tholeiitic basalt series. Other proportions lead to daughter liquids which are not basalts. In the light of these restrictions, several recent publications are reinterpreted as examples of fractionation of augite, plagioclase, and olivine, rather than examples of partial melting. The recognition of the small effect that massive (50 to 83%) crystallization has on basaltic chemistry by contrast with the large effect that small accumulations of phenocrysts can have is particularly emphasized in this reinterpretation.
Comparisons and possible relationships are suggested between some low-K2O, low-TiO2 tholeiites; some calcic-, aphyric-, dykes of some tholeiitic provinces; some chilled margins of some layered intrusions; some basalts from Iceland, and some basalts from the ocean ridges.