Recycled ancient ghost carbonate in the Pitcairn mantle plume

Xiao Jun Wang, Li Hui Chen, Albrecht W. Hofmann, Takeshi Hanyu, Hiroshi Kawabata, Yuan Zhong, Lie Wen Xie, Jin Hua Shi, Takashi Miyazaki, Yuka Hirahara, Toshiro Takahashi, Ryoko Senda, Qing Chang, Bogdan S. Vaglarov, Jun Ichi Kimura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


The extreme Sr, Nd, Hf, and Pb isotopic compositions found in Pitcairn Island basalts have been labeled enriched mantle 1 (EM1), characterizing them as one of the isotopic mantle end members. The EM1 origin has been vigorously debated for over 25 years, with interpretations ranging from delaminated subcontinental lithosphere, to recycled lower continental crust, to recycled oceanic crust carrying ancient pelagic sediments, all of which may potentially generate the requisite radiogenic isotopic composition. Here we find that δ 26 Mg ratios in Pitcairn EM1 basalts are significantly lower than in normal mantle and are the lowest values so far recorded in oceanic basalts. A global survey of Mg isotopic compositions of potentially recycled components shows that marine carbonates constitute the most common and typical reservoir invariably characterized by extremely low δ 26 Mg values. We therefore infer that the subnormal δ 26 Mg of the Pitcairn EM1 component originates from subducted marine carbonates. This, combined with previously published evidence showing exceptionally unradiogenic Pb as well as sulfur isotopes affected by mass-independent fractionation, suggests that the Pitcairn EM1 component is most likely derived from late Archean subducted carbonate-bearing sediments. However, the low Ca/Al ratios of Pitcairn lavas are inconsistent with experimental evidence showing high Ca/Al ratios in melts derived from carbonate-bearing mantle sources. We suggest that carbonate-silicate reactions in the late Archean subducted sediments exhausted the carbonates, but the isotopically light magnesium of the carbonate was incorporated in the silicates, which then entered the lower mantle and ultimately became the Pitcairn plume source.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8682-8687
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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