Melt-modified lithosphere beneath Ross Island and its role in the tectono-magmatic evolution of the West Antarctic Rift System

Day, JMD, Harvey RP, Hilton DR.  In Press.  Melt-modified lithosphere beneath Ross Island and its role in the tectono-magmatic evolution of the West Antarctic Rift System. Chemical Geology.

Date Published:



Mantle lithosphere influences rift system tectonic evolution, yet the age and composition of rifted lithosphere is typically difficult to constrain due to limited sampling. In the West Antarctic Rift System (WARS), Cenozoic to recent alkaline volcanic rocks yield a variety of peridotite and pyroxenite xenoliths that allow sampling of lithosphere. We report osmium and helium isotope data, elemental abundances, and petrology, for a suite of xenoliths and lavas from the Hut Point Peninsula of Ross Island. Recently (<1.3 Ma) erupted basanites yield fresh dunite and harzburgite (olivine forsterite [Fo] 90.1-88.2), lherzolite (Fo90.6-87.4), and pyroxenite xenoliths (Fo89.3-87.3). The basanite lavas contain abundant large olivine xenocrysts (Fo89.7-88.0), with more ferroan matrix olivine grains (Fo83.7-81.2) and have HIMU-like incompatible trace-element signatures. The 3He/4He ratios (6.8 ±0.3RA; 2SD) defined by co-existing He-rich xenoliths indicate a mantle source distinct from high-3He/4He plume mantle. Pyroxenite and lherzolite xenoliths have similar relative abundances of incompatible trace elements to host lavas, whereas dunite xenoliths have refractory compositions. Melt-rock reaction occurring in the xenoliths is demonstrated by replacement by amphibole or clinopyroxene to form pyroxenite and lherzolite lithologies, or as amphibole-impregnated dunites. The 187Re-187Os systematics of the lavas, pyroxenites and lherzolites define an apparent isochron, with initial 187Os/188Os ratio of 0.1286 ±0.0001. The initial 187Os/188Os is within uncertainty of dunite and harzburgite xenolith Os isotope compositions (0.1279-0.1303). Pervasive evidence for melt-rock interaction indicates that the straight-line relationship in 187Re/188Os-187Os/188Os space is a mixing line between high Re/Os lavas with radiogenic 187Os/188Os, and dunite and harzburgite. Petrological and geochemical evidence indicates that dunite and harzburgite xenoliths represent young lithosphere, with rhenium depletion ages up to ~250 Ma. The timing of formation and composition of the Hut Point Peninsula xenoliths are consistent with both destruction and creation of mantle lithosphere during or after subduction along the Gondwana margin, prior to WARS formation. Modification of mantle lithosphere by subduction is also consistent with generation of HIMU-like metasomatized mantle reservoirs that fed Cenozoic to recent alkali volcanism of Mount Erebus and the WARS. The presence of young lithosphere within the WARS has collateral implications for rift dynamics and melting processes, especially beneath Mount Erebus, contrasting with older lithospheric mantle beneath the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and Marie Byrd Land.