Bulletin of Volcanology

, 81:60 | Cite as

The long-lived Chiltepe volcanic complex, Nicaragua: magmatic evolution at an arc offset

  • A. FreundtEmail author
  • S. Kutterolf
Research Article


The NW-SE striking volcanic front in Nicaragua is dissected into a western and an eastern segment separated by 20 km of N-S offset. The Chiltepe volcanic complex lies at the eastern end of the western segment and at the northern tip of the Nejapa-Miraflores tectonic and volcanic lineament that traces the arc offset. The Chiltepe peninsula attained its present shape and composition during highly explosive and effusive volcanic activity through the Late Pleistocene and Holocene, which formed the Chiltepe Formation (CF) and culminated in the 1.9 ka plinian eruption of the Chiltepe tephra. The previous evolution of this volcanic system is recorded in the volcaniclastic Mateare Formation (MF) exposed west (downwind) of the peninsula and separated from the CF by a large regional erosional unconformity. We divide the MF into the lower MF-1 member (22 volcaniclastic units) and the upper MF-2 member (17 volcaniclastic units), which are separated by a major erosional unconformity. The MF-1 was formed by variably evolved (basalt to dacite) magmas from a mantle source that was moderately metasomatized by fluids derived from subducted sediments. These high-Al moderately hydrous magmas fractionated in a tholeiitic fashion, with early plagioclase but delayed magnetite fractionation (initial Fe-Ti enrichments). Apart from the variable degree of differentiation, magmatic conditions during MF-1 remained fairly constant. While MF-1 contains several erosional unconformities suggesting tectonic activity, MF-2 is conformably stratified and the tholeiitic magmas persisted during this time. However, during MF-2, Al-poor tholeiitic compositions gradually replaced the Al-rich of MF-1 without significant changes in metasomatism or degree of melting at their mantle sources. At the same time, a different mantle source was tapped that was richer in the sediment components, and which produced more hydrous magmas that differentiated in a calc-alkaline fashion with early fractionation of both plagioclase and magnetite. Hence, two mantle source compositions were active during MF-2. The erosional interval between MF and CF, associated with strike-slip motion at the Mateare Fault, correlates with initiation of Nejapa-Miraflores volcanism. We postulate that extension along the Najapa-Miraflores fault system facilitated rapid ascent of mafic magmas from a mantle source laterally away from the arc axis that was less metasomatized than sources directly below the arc. On the Chiltepe peninsula, the Nejapa-Miraflores and Chiltepe magma systems interacted to form tholeiitic, less hydrous types of magmas (andesite to dacite) that erupted intermittently with the dominant calc-alkaline hydrous dacites. While associations of tholeiitic and calc-alkaline magmas at other subduction zones have often been attributed to variable intracrustal processes, we here argue for changes in the mantle source, particularly hydration by slab-derived fluids, as the main control on subsequent differentiation behavior. We further attribute the long-term changes in mantle source conditions through MF and CF, possibly over about 1 My, to result from temporal heterogeneity caused by mantle wedge solid flow and possibly variable fluid flow from the slab.


Arc volcanism Arc offset Tephrostratigraphy Mantle source Magmatic differentiation Subduction tectonics 



We gratefully acknowledge the support by Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER) in Managua during field work, particularly by Dr. Wilfried Strauch. Many thanks go to two anonymous reviewers as well as to editor J. Fierstein who provided detailed constructive comments that greatly helped to improve this paper. This publication is a contribution of the Sonderforschungsbereich 574 “Volatiles and Fluids in Subduction Zones” at Kiel University.

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© International Association of Volcanology & Chemistry of the Earth's Interior 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research KielKielGermany

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