Research ArticleGEOCHEMISTRY

Iron isotopes trace primordial magma ocean cumulates melting in Earth’s upper mantle

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Science Advances  12 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 11, eabc7394
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc7394


The differentiation of Earth ~4.5 billion years (Ga) ago is believed to have culminated in magma ocean crystallization, crystal-liquid separation, and the formation of mineralogically distinct mantle reservoirs. However, the magma ocean model remains difficult to validate because of the scarcity of geochemical tracers of lower mantle mineralogy. The Fe isotope compositions (δ57Fe) of ancient mafic rocks can be used to reconstruct the mineralogy of their mantle source regions. We present Fe isotope data for 3.7-Ga metabasalts from the Isua Supracrustal Belt (Greenland). The δ57Fe signatures of these samples extend to values elevated relative to modern equivalents and define strong correlations with fluid-immobile trace elements and tungsten isotope anomalies (μ182W). Phase equilibria models demonstrate that these features can be explained by melting of a magma ocean cumulate component in the upper mantle. Similar processes may operate today, as evidenced by the δ57Fe and μ182W heterogeneity of modern oceanic basalts.

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