One extremely young volcano (0.05-1 Ma) and other young volcanoes (1.8, 4.2, 6.0, and 8.5 Ma) composed of strongly alkaline magma were recently discovered on the abyssal plain of the Early Cretaceous (135 Ma) Pacific Plate. These volcanoes were dubbed "petit-spots". The petit-spot volcanic province represents more than 8 Myr of activity over a large area (∼600 km along the direction of plate motion), but with a relatively small volume of magma production, thus indicating a small supply of heat inconsistent with a hotspot. The low-flux petit-spot volcanoes may be related to the occurrence of a tensional field of lithosphere caused by plate flexure, with the ascending melt derived from a mantle source susceptible to partial melting. Rock samples from the young volcanoes are highly vesicular (up to 60%) despite high hydrostatic pressures at 6000 m water depth, indicating volatile-rich magmas. The depleted heavy rare earth elements and high radiometric isotopic ratios of noble gases indicate the magma was derived from upper mantle. Nevertheless, the low 143Nd/144Nd, high 87Sr/86Sr, low 206Pb/204Pb, and low 207Pb/204Pb ratios are similar to enriched or fertile compositions such as oceanic island basalts. These apparently conflicting data are explained by the extremely small degree of partial melting of recycled materials in the degassing mantle of the asthenosphere, probably with carbonate in the source. The petit-spot volcanoes, therefore, provide a unique window into the nature of the oceanic plate and underlying asthenosphere prior to subduction.
- Pacific Plate