The southeast Australian lithospheric mantle: isotopic and geochemical constraints on its growth and evolution

William F. McDonough, Malcolm T. McCulloch

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Trace elements and isotopic compositions of whole rocks and mineral separates are reported for 15 spinel-bearing harzburgite and lherzolite xenoliths from southeastern Australia. These samples have an exceedingly large range in isotopic compositions, with 87Sr/86Sr ranging from 0.70248 to 0.70834 and ε{lunate}Nd values ranging from +12.7 to -6.3. This range in isotopic compositions can be found in xenoliths from a single locality. The isotopic compositions of clinopyroxene separates and their whole rocks were found to be different in some xenoliths. Samples containing small glass pockets, which replace pre-existing hydrous minerals, generally show only small differences in isotopic composition between clinopyroxene and whole rock. In a modally metasomatized peridotite, significant differences in the Sr and Nd isotopic compositions of a coexisting phlogopite-clinopyroxene pair are present. Coexisting clinopyroxenes and orthopyroxenes from an anhydrous lherzolite have Sr isotopic compositions that are significantly different (0.70248 versus 0.70314), and yield an apparent age of 625 Ma, similar to that found previously by Dasch and Green [1]. However, the Nd isotopic compositions of the clinopyroxene and orthopyroxene are identical indicating recent (within 40 Ma) re-equilibration of Nd. Sr and Nd concentrations in the whole rocks and clinopyroxenes show an excellent positive correlation, and have an average Sr/Nd ratio of 15. This ratio is similar to the primitive mantle value, as well as that found in primitive MORBs and OIBs, but is much lower than that measured in island arc basalts and what might be predicted for a subduction zone-derived fluid. This indicates that a significant proportion of the Sr and Nd in these peridotites is introduced as a basaltic melt with intraplate chemical characteristics. The isotopic compositions of the peridotites reflect long-term, small-scale heterogeneities in the continental lithospheric mantle, and are in marked contrast to the near uniform isotopic compositions of the host alkali basalts (87Sr/86Sr = 0.7038-0.7041 and ε{lunate}Nd = +3.6 to +2.9). A minimum of three evolutionary stages are identified in the growth of the continental lithospheric mantle: an early basalt depletion event, recording the initial development and stabilization of the lithospheric mantle, followed by at least two enrichment episodes. These observations are consistent with continental lithospheric mantle growth involving the underplating of refractory peridotite diapirs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-340
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number2-4
Publication statusPublished - 1987 Dec


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