The emergence of a Galápagos shield volcano, Roca Redonda Academic Article uri icon


  • Roca Redonda volcano is a mostly submarine shield volcano that rises nearly 3 km from the adjacent seafloor. Over twenty lava flows and palagonite tuff are exposed in a 60 meter high oblong outcrop above sea level, and several other flows are exposed in the shallow water surrounding the islet. Thick, slightly alkaline picritic flows form the base of the section. Thinner picrites interbedded with sparsely porphyritic alkali-olivine basaltic pahoehoe toes characterize the upper section. The subaerial section probably records the filling of a palagonite tuff cone with younger lavas. Numerous fumaroles that may have a magmatic component are present in the shallow (<30 m) submarine zone and indicate that the volcano is probably still active. Three lava types are exposed: the basal picrites with 19% > MgO > 14%, high-Mg basalts with MgO of about 9%, and low-Mg basalts with MgO of about 6%. The Sr and Nd isotopic ratios of the three lava types are within analytical uncertainty. Olivine compositions indicate that the picrites are basaltic liquids that have accumulated olivine whose composition is in equilibrium with the host basaltic liquid. Apparently, basaltic magmas percolated through dunite and troctolite that had crystallized from slightly older Roca Redonda basaltic magma. Lavas from Roca Redonda have enriched trace element contents and isotopic ratios relative to nearby Wolf volcano, but they are quite similar to lavas from Cerro Azul and Ecuador volcanoes. The common characteristic of these volcanoes is that they lie on the periphery of the archipelago and are in a stage of subaerial growth. This suggests that Galapagos volcanoes may go through a juvenile alkaline stage before a mature tholeiitic stage, analogous to the Loihi stage of Hawaiian volcanism. A low He-3/He-4 ratio in olivine from one of the picrites indicates a small contribution by the Galapagos mantle plume.

publication date

  • October 1998