The Origin of Trachyte and Pantellerite from Pantelleria, Italy: Insights from Major Element, Trace Element, and Thermodynamic Modelling

Author ORCID Identifier

John C. White ORCID iD iconhttps://orcid.org/0000-0001-5107-6847



Document Type


Publication Date



Trachyte and peralkaline rhyolite (pantellerite and comendite) frequently comprise the felsic end-member in bimodal suites in continental rift and oceanic island settings. In these settings, the relationship between the mafic (mildly alkaline, or transitional, basalt) and felsic lavas is ambiguous; major- and trace-element models and isotopic data are often consistent with an origin for felsic lavas from either fractional crystallization of transitional basalt or partial melting of alkali gabbro followed by fractional crystallization. In this paper, we present representative mineral analyses and whole-rock analyses from forty samples of a basalt–trachyte–pantellerite suite collected at Pantelleria, Italy, in the Strait of Sicily Rift Zone, and compare the results of major- and trace-element modelling with the results of thermodynamic (MELTS) modelling. From these results we conclude that metaluminous trachyte formed as a result of 70 to 75% low-pressure (0.1 GPa) fractional crystallization of an assemblage of plagioclase, clinopyroxene, olivine, magnetite, and apatite from a hydrous (1.0–1.5 wt.% H2O) transitional basalt magma at relative oxygen fugacities approximately one log unit below the fayalite–magnetite–quartz buffer (FMQ−1). The “Daly gap”–a lack of intermediate (~ 49–62 wt.% SiO2) volcanic rocks–at Pantelleria is concluded to be primarily the result of rapid differentiation through that interval. Relatively rapid crystallization at low pressure may have effected the partial degassing of water-saturated (~ 4 wt.% H2O) metaluminous trachyte magma. Some metaluminous trachyte lavas have positive Eu anomalies, high K/Rb ratios, high concentrations of Ba, and low concentrations of incompatible trace elements; these are interpreted to be the result of up to 40% accumulation of alkali feldspar. Comenditic trachyte, pantelleritic trachyte, and pantellerite formed after an additional 20 to 80% fractional crystallization of an assemblage dominated by alkali feldspar from metaluminous trachyte magma. The most evolved pantellerite lavas and tuffs are the result of a total of ~ 95% fractional crystallization of transitional basalt, with phenocrysts that equilibrated at low temperatures (< 700 °C), low oxygen fugacities, and high (> 4 wt.%) water contents.


Journal Title

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research