Research ArticleGEOCHEMISTRY

Elemental constraints on the amount of recycled crust in the generation of mid-oceanic ridge basalts (MORBs)

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Science Advances  26 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 26, eaba2923
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba2923


Mid-oceanic ridge basalts (MORBs) are depleted in incompatible elements, but ridge segments far from mantle plumes frequently erupt chemically enriched MORBs (E-MORBs). Two major explanations of E-MORBs are that these basalts are generated by the melting of entrained recycled crust (pyroxenite) beneath ridges or by the melting of refertilized peridotites. These two hypotheses can be discriminated with compatible element abundances from Sc to Ge, here termed the ScGe elements. Here, we demonstrate that E-MORBs have systematically lower Ge/Si and Sc contents and slightly higher Fe/Mn and Nb/Ta ratios than depleted MORBs (D-MORBs) due to the mixing of low-degree pyroxenite melts. The Ge/Si ratio is a new tracer that effectively discriminates between melts derived from peridotite sources and melts derived from mixed pyroxenite-peridotite sources. These new data are used to estimate the distribution of pyroxenite in the mantle sources of global MORB segments.

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