Tonalite - Encyclopedia

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TONALITE, in petrology, a rock of the diorite class, first described from Monte Adamello near Tonale in the Eastern Alps. It may be described as a quartz-diorite containing biotite and hornblende in nearly equal proportions. The principal felspar is plagioclase, but orthoclase occurs also, usually in small amount. Those varieties which are rich in orthoclase, in addition to plagioclase, have been called quartz-monzonites or adamellites, but a better term is grano-diorite, which has been very generally adopted in America for rocks which are intermediate in character between the granites and the diorites. The hornblende of the diorites is green, sometimes with a tinge of brown; the biotite is always brown and strongly pleochroic. Often these two minerals are clustered together irregularly or in parallel growths. They have generally a fairly strong tendency to idiomorphism, but may sometimes enclose plagioclase felspar in ophitic manner. Both of them decompose to chlorite, epidote and carbonates. The plagioclase felspar, which may form more than one-half of the rock, is andesine or oligoclase; simple crystals are rare, the majority being complex growths with centres of felspar rich in lime, while in the external zones the proportion of soda felspar increases greatly. The inner portions have often well-defined, but very irregular, boundaries, and are sometimes sponge-like, with the cavities filled up with a later, more acid, deposit. This seems to indicate that growth has taken place in stages, alternating with periods when the crystallized felspar was eroded or partly dissolved. The orthoclase sometimes forms irregular plates enclosing individuals of plagioclase. Quartz occurs both in irregular simple grains and as micropegmatite. Occasionally pale green pyroxene is visible in the centre of crystals of dark green hornblende. The accessory minerals apatite, magnetite and zircon are always present, and very common also are orthite in coffee-coloured zonal prisms practically always encircled by yellow epidote, and reddish-brown crystals of sphene, simple or twinned.

In external appearance the tonalites are very like the granites but usually darker in colour. Tonalite-porphyrites often accompany them, having the same composition but with phenocrysts of felspar, quartz, hornblende and biotite in a fine-grained groundmass. Veins and threads of fine grey rock, mainly composed of quartz and felspar, often intersect tonalite-masses and have been called tonalite-aplites, seeing that they bear the same relations to aplites as the aplites do to the granites. They contain more sodalime felspar than the normal aplites. Towards their margins the larger alpine masses of tonalite often assume banded or gneissic facies, due apparently to movement during intrusion.

In eastern Tirol another tonalite occurs at Rieserferner; there is also a well-known mass of this rock near Traversella. In the south of Scotland (Galloway district) tonalites accompany hornblendeand biotite-granites, hornblendeand augite-diorites. The newer granites of the Highlands of Scotland in many places pass into tonalites, especially near their margins, and similar rocks occur in Ireland in a few places. Grano-diorites have been described from California, and rocks of very similar character occur in the Andes, Patagonia and the lesser Antilles. Tonalites are also said to be frequent among the igneous rocks of Alaska. (J. S. F.)

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