The Transantarctic Mountains (TAM) are the world's longest rift shoulder but the source of their high elevation is enigmatic. To discriminate the importance of mechanical vs. thermal sources of support, a 550 km-long transect of magnetotelluric geophysical soundings spanning the central TAM was acquired. These data reveal a lithosphere of high electrical resistivity to at least 150 km depth, implying a cold stable state well into the upper mantle. Here we find that the central TAM most likely are elevated by a non-thermal, flexural cantilever mechanism which is perhaps the most clearly expressed example anywhere. West Antarctica in this region exhibits a low resistivity, moderately hydrated asthenosphere, and concentrated extension (rift necking) near the central TAM range front but with negligible thermal encroachment into the TAM. Broader scale heat flow of east-central West Antarctica appears moderate, on the order of 60-70 mW m-2, lower than that of the U.S. Great Basin.
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Author correction exists for this article and can be found in Nature Communications (2018), 9:740, doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03349-y