Incompatible element ratios in oceanic basalts and komatiites

Tracking deep mantle sources and continental growth rates with time

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[1] Ratios of elements with similar incompatibilities in the mantle can be used to characterize magma sources through time. Nb/Y and Zr/Y distributions in oceanic basalts support the existence of a long-lived, deep depleted source in mantle. Zr/Y, Nb/Y, Zr/Nb, and Nb/Th ratios in oceanic basalts and komatiites suggest that depleted and recycled components, together probably with an enriched component, were present in the deep mantle by 3.5 Ga. Low Zr/Nb and Hf/Sm ratios and high La/Yb and Nb/Y ratios in some plume basalts and Al-depleted komatiites may reflect majorite fractionation. High Zr/Nb ratios and low Nb/Y ratios in Archean Al-undepleted komatiites may record partial melting of a Mg-perovskite source in deep mantle plumes in which Mg-perovskite crystallizes and accumulates in komatiite melts during ascent. Oceanic greenstone basalts show a gradual increase in the Nb/Th ratio with time with a relatively sudden increase at about 2 Ga. This trend is consistent with gradual continental growth and with a major episode of continental growth at 2.7 Ga. Nb/Th ratios in some Early Archean basalts may record extraction of up to 25% of the present volume of continental crust from the early upper mantle. An alternative explanation for the rapid increase in Nb/Th in oceanic basalts at 2 Ga is that a catastrophic 2.7- Ga event in the mantle changed the composition or/and location of the primary volume of mantle from which continental crust was extracted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1005
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Continental growth rate
  • Komatiites
  • Mantle plume events
  • Mantle plumes
  • Mantle sources

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