A combined basalt and peridotite perspective on 14 million years of melt generation at the Atlantis Bank segment of the Southwest Indian Ridge: evidence for temporal changes in mantle dynamics? Academic Article uri icon


  • Little is known about temporal variations in melt generation and extraction at midocean ridges largely due to the paucity of sampling along flow lines. Here we present new whole-rock major and trace element data, and mineral and glass major element data, for 71 basaltic samples (lavas and dykes) and 23 peridotites from the same ridge segment (the Atlantis Bank segment of the Southwest Indian Ridge). These samples span an age range of almost 14 My and, in combination with the large amount of published data from this area, allow temporal variations in melting processes to be investigated. Basalts show systematic changes in incompatible trace element ratios with the older samples (from similar to8-14 Ma) having more depleted incompatible trace element ratios than the younger ones. There is, however, no corresponding change in peridotite compositions. Peridotites come from the top of the melting column, where the extent of melting is highest, suggesting that the maximum degree of melting did not change over this interval of time. New and published Nd isotopic ratios of basalts, dykes and gabbros from this segment suggest that the average source composition has been approximately constant over this time interval. These data are most readily explained by a model in which the average source composition and temperature have not changed over the last 14 My, but the dynamics of mantle flow (active-to-passive) or melt extraction (less-to-more efficient extraction from the ‘wings’ of the melting column) has changed significantly. This hypothesised change in mantle dynamics occurs at roughly the same time as a change from a period of detachment faulting to ‘normal’ crustal accretion. We speculate that active mantle flow may impart sufficient shear stress on the base of the lithosphere to rotate the regional stress field and promote the formation of low angle normal faults. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • June 2004