Lithospheric controls on magma composition along Earth’s longest continental hotspot track

D R Davies, N Rawlinson, G Iaffaldano, I H Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Hotspots are anomalous regions of volcanism at Earth’s surface that show no obvious association with tectonic plate boundaries. Classic examples include the Hawaiian–Emperor chain and the Yellowstone–Snake River Plain province. The majority are believed to form as Earth’s tectonic plates move over long-lived mantle plumes: buoyant upwellings that bring hot material from Earth’s deep mantle to its surface1. It has long been recognized that lithospheric thickness limits the rise height of plumes2, 3, 4 and, thereby, their minimum melting pressure. It should, therefore, have a controlling influence on the geochemistry of plume-related magmas, although unambiguous evidence of this has, so far, been lacking. Here we integrate observational constraints from surface geology, geochronology, plate-motion reconstructions, geochemistry and seismology to ascertain plume melting depths beneath Earth’s longest continental hotspot track, a 2,000-kilometre-long track in eastern Australia that displays a record of volcanic activity between 33 and 9 million years ago5, 6, which we call the Cosgrove track. Our analyses highlight a strong correlation between lithospheric thickness and magma composition along this track, with: (1) standard basaltic compositions in regions where lithospheric thickness is less than 110 kilometres; (2) volcanic gaps in regions where lithospheric thickness exceeds 150 kilometres; and (3) low-volume, leucitite-bearing volcanism in regions of intermediate lithospheric thickness. Trace-element concentrations from samples along this track support the notion that these compositional variations result from different degrees of partial melting, which is controlled by the thickness of overlying lithosphere. Our results place the first observational constraints on the sub-continental melting depth of mantle plumes and provide direct evidence that lithospheric thickness has a dominant influence on the volume and chemical composition of plume-derived magmas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-514
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume525
Issue number7570
Early online date14 Sep 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2015

Fingerprint

hot spot
magma
tectonic plate
plume
melting
mantle plume
volcanism
geochemistry
seismology
plate motion
alluvial plain
plate boundary
geochronology
partial melting
lithosphere
upwelling
chemical composition
geology
trace element
mantle

Keywords

  • volcano
  • plumes
  • Australia
  • Geochemistry
  • Geodynamics
  • seismology
  • Volcanology

Cite this

Davies, D. R., Rawlinson, N., Iaffaldano, G., & Campbell, I. H. (2015). Lithospheric controls on magma composition along Earth’s longest continental hotspot track. Nature, 525(7570), 511-514. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14903

Lithospheric controls on magma composition along Earth’s longest continental hotspot track. / Davies, D R; Rawlinson, N; Iaffaldano, G; Campbell, I H.

In: Nature, Vol. 525, No. 7570, 24.09.2015, p. 511-514.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Davies, DR, Rawlinson, N, Iaffaldano, G & Campbell, IH 2015, 'Lithospheric controls on magma composition along Earth’s longest continental hotspot track' Nature, vol. 525, no. 7570, pp. 511-514. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14903
Davies, D R ; Rawlinson, N ; Iaffaldano, G ; Campbell, I H. / Lithospheric controls on magma composition along Earth’s longest continental hotspot track. In: Nature. 2015 ; Vol. 525, No. 7570. pp. 511-514.
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