Support for a Uniformitarian Model of Continental Mantle Lithosphere Formation from the “Near-Cratonic” Composition of Proterozoic Southern African Mantle Lithosphere

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:15 AM
Philip E Janney, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
The transition at the end of the Archean between the generation of cratonic and mobile belt continental lithosphere is regarded as a first-order change in the mode of generation of continental lithosphere. It is widely debated whether this transition represented a fundamental change in the process by which the lithospheric mantle was generated (i.e., as melting residues of deep-seated mantle upwellings to residues of relatively shallow mantle melting at subduction zones), or whether it primarily reflected a more gradual change in the conditions (i.e., temperatures, depths and degrees of melting) of lithosphere generation in a suprasubduction zone setting. The marked contrast, in many cases, between the major element compositions of peridotite xenoliths from Archean cratons and those from adjacent post-Archean mobile belts has accentuated the significance of this transition. Peridotite xenoliths from the post-Archean mobile belt terranes surrounding the Kaapvaal craton in southern Africa are clearly Proterozoic in age from Re-Os isotope constraints, but they are unusual in that they share several key similarities in composition and mineralogy with Archean Kaapvaal peridotites (e.g., low bulk-rock Al2O3, relatively low modal olivine and high modal orthopyroxene). Although they lack the low FeO and high olivine Mg# values of the most extreme Kaapvaal samples, they show a very large degree of overlap (extending to olivine Mg# values of greater than 93 for example). These similarities support a common mode of origin for cratonic and post-cratonic lithosphere in southern Africa (although varying somewhat in the degrees and depths of melt extraction) and a similar history of post-formation modification. A comparison of the conditions of melt extraction for cratonic and post-cratonic lithosphere inferred from compatible and mildly incompatible trace elements will be presented.