Metasomatic Enrichment of Oceanic Lithospheric Mantle Documented by Petit-Spot Xenoliths
Abstract:Oceanic lithosphere is generally interpreted as mantle residue after MORB extraction. It has been proposed, however, that metasomatism could take place at the interface between the low-velocity zone and the cooling and thickening oceanic lithosphere or by the percolation of low-degree melts produced in periphery of Mid Ocean Ridges. This later process is observed in slow spreading ridges and ophiolites where shallow oceanic lithospheric mantle could be metasomatized/refertilized during incomplete MORB melt extraction. Nevertheless, direct evidence for metasomatic refertilization of the deep part of the oceanic lithospheric mantle is still missing. Xenoliths and xenocrysts sampled by petit-spot volcanoes interpreted as low-degree melts extracted from the base of the lithosphere in response to plate flexure, provide important new information about the nature and the processes associated with the evolution of oceanic lithospheric mantle.
Here, we report, first, the presence of a garnet xenocryst in petit-spot lavas from Japan characterized by low-Cr, low-Ti content and mostly flat MREE-HREE pattern. This garnet is interpreted as formed during subsolidus cooling of pyroxenitic or gabbroic cumulates formed at ~1 GPa during the incomplete melt extraction at the periphery of the Pacific mid-ocean ridge. It is the first time that such processes are documented in fast spreading context. Second, we report petit-spot mantle xenoliths with cpx trace element “signatures” characterized by high U, Th, relative depletion in Nb, Pb, Ti and high but variable LREE/HREE ratio suggesting equilibration depth closed to the Gt/Sp transition zone. Such “signatures” are unknown from oceanic settings and show unexpected similarity to melt-metasomatized gt-peridotites sampled by kimberlites. This similarity suggests that metasomatic processes are not restricted to continental setting, but could correspond to a global mechanism at the lithosphere–asthenosphere boundary. As plate flexure represents a global mechanism in subduction zone, a portion of oceanic lithospheric mantle is likely to be metasomatized; recycling of these enriched domains into the convecting mantle is fundamental to understand the generation of small scale mantle isotopic and volatile heterogeneities sampled by OIBs and MORBs.