Low- 3 He/ 4 He sublithospheric mantle source for the most magnesian magmas of the Karoo large igneous province Academic Article uri icon


  • The massive outpourings of Karoo and Ferrar continental flood basalts (CFBs) similar to 180 Ma ago mark the initial Jurassic rifting stages of the Gondwana supercontinent. The origin and sources of these eruptions have been debated for decades, largely due to difficulties in defining their parental melt and mantle source characteristics. Recent findings of Fe- and Mg-rich dikes (depleted ferropicrite suite) from Vestfjella, western Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica, have shed light on the composition of the deep sub-Gondwanan mantle: these magmas have been connected to upper mantle sources presently sampled by the Southwest Indian Ocean mid-ocean ridge basalts (SWIR MORBs) or to high He-3/He-4 plume-entrained non-chondritic primitive mantle sources formed early in Earth’s history. In an attempt to determine their He isotopic composition and relative contributions from magmatic, cosmogenic, and radiogenic He sources, we performed in-vacuo stepwise crushing and melting analyses of olivine mineral separates, some of which were abraded to remove the outer layer of the grains. The best estimate for the mantle isotopic composition is given by a sample with the highest amount of He released (>50%) during the first crushing step of an abraded coarse fraction. It has a He-3/He-4 of 7.03 +/- 0.23 (2 sigma) times the atmospheric ratio (R-a), which is indistinguishable from those measured from SWIR MORBs (6.3-7.3 R-a; source He-3/He-4 similar to 6.4-7.6 R-a at 180 Ma) and notably lower than in the most primitive lavas from the North Atlantic Igneous Province (up to 50 R-a), considered to represent the epitome magmas from non-chondritic primitive mantle sources. Previously published trace element and isotopic (Sr, Nd, and Pb) compositions do not suggest a direct genetic link to any modern hotspot of Indian or southern Atlantic Oceans. Although influence of a mantle plume cannot be ruled out, the high magma temperatures and SWIR MORB-like geochemistry of the suite are best explained by supercontinent insulation of a precursory Indian Ocean upper mantle source. Such a model is also supported by the majority of the recent studies on the structure, geochronology, and petrology of the Karoo CFBs. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • September 2015