Direct evidence for upper mantle structure in the NW Pacific Plate: Microstructural analysis of a petit-spot peridotite xenolith

Yumiko Harigane, Tomoyuki Mizukami, Tomoaki Morishita, Katsuyoshi Michibayashi, Natsue Abe, Naoto Hirano

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Petit-spots, the late Miocene alkali basaltic volcanoes on the Early Cretaceous NW Pacific Plate, originate at the base of the lithosphere. The petit-spot volcanic rocks enclose fragments of tholeiitic basalt, dolerite, gabbro, and mantle peridotite, providing a unique window into the entire section of subducting oceanic lithosphere. We provide here the first direct observations on the deep structure of the Pacific lithosphere using microstructural analyses of a petit-spot peridotite xenolith. The xenolith is a lherzolite that consists mainly of coarse- and medium-grained olivine, orthopyroxene, and clinopyroxene, as well as fine-grained aggregates of spinel and orthopyroxene that probably represent replaced pyrope-rich garnet. A strong deformational fabric is marked by a parallel alignment of millimeter-sized elongate minerals and their crystallographic preferred orientation. The olivine displays a [010] fiber pattern with a girdle of [100] axes and a maximum of [010] perpendicular to the foliation, a pattern which is consistent with a transpressional deformation in high temperature conditions at the base of oceanic lithosphere. Our microstructural observations and seismic data indicate that the lower part of the NW Pacific lithosphere possess an early stage structure of mantle flow at the asthenosphere. This interpretation is compatible with a conventional model in which oceanic lithosphere is thickened during cooling and plate convection. A discrepancy between the weak anisotropy in the petit-spot peridotite and the strong azimuthal anisotropy from the seismic data in the NW Pacific plate implies the existence of a highly anisotropic component in the deep oceanic lithosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-202
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Feb 1


  • Crystallographic preferred orientation (CPO)
  • Lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary
  • Northwestern Pacific Plate
  • Peridotite xenolith
  • Petit-spot
  • Seismic anisotropy


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