Heterogeneous upper mantle Ne, Ar and Xe isotopic compositions and a possible Dupal noble gas signature recorded in basalts from the Southwest Indian Ridge

R. Parai, S. Mukhopadhyay, J. J. Standish

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Variations in heavy noble gas (Ne, Ar, Xe) isotopic compositions provide unique insights into the nature of heterogeneities in the mantle. However, few precise constraints on mantle source heavy noble gas isotopic compositions are available due to ubiquitous shallow-level atmospheric contamination. As a result, the extent of heterogeneity in mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB) mantle source Ne, Ar and Xe isotopic compositions is unknown. Basalts from the ultra-slow spreading Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR) between 7°E and 25°E exhibit remarkable variability in He isotopic composition: SWIR 4He/3He spans half the total range observed in all mantle-derived basalts. Therefore, basalts from the SWIR provide a unique window into upper mantle heterogeneity and present an ideal opportunity to characterize variations in upper mantle heavy noble gas isotopic composition. Here we present new high-precision Ne, Ar and Xe isotopic compositions as well as He, CO2, Ne, Ar and Xe abundances measured in basalt glasses from the SWIR. After correcting the measured values for shallow-level atmospheric contamination, significant and systematic variations in mantle source Ne, Ar and Xe compositions are observed. We note that large variations in source 40Ar/36Ar and 129Xe/130Xe are observed in basalts removed from the influence of known hotspots, indicating a heterogeneous mid-ocean ridge basalt source. Thus, SWIR heavy noble gas data reveal a greater degree of source heterogeneity than is evident in the 4He/3He systematics alone. The observed heavy noble gas isotopic heterogeneities imply that the average MORB source 40Ar/36Ar and 129Xe/130Xe ratios are not yet well-determined.Variation in MORB source 40Ar/36Ar and 129Xe/130Xe at a given 4He/3He and 21Ne/22Ne may reflect heterogeneous recycling of atmospheric Ar and Xe. In particular, we find low mantle source 40Ar/36Ar and 129Xe/130Xe ratios in the eastern region of the study area, which may reflect the noble gas signature of the Dupal mantle domain. Our observations require that the sampled mantle domain either is very ancient (>4.45Ga) or has been metasomatized by subduction zone fluids carrying recycled atmospheric Ar and Xe. However, our Xe isotopic measurements indicate that differences between MORB and ocean island basalt (OIB) source noble gas compositions cannot be explained by recycling of atmospheric noble gases alone. Instead, a relatively undegassed mantle reservoir is required to account for OIB noble gases. The SWIR data demonstrate that the reservoir supplying primordial noble gases to mantle plumes differentiated from the MORB source early in Earth history, and the two reservoirs have not been homogenized over 4.45Ga of mantle convection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-239
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Dec 5 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Shichun Huang and Dr. Allison Gale for comments and discussions. Constructive comments from Dr. Philippe Sarda and two anonymous reviewers helped to improve the manuscript. This work was supported by NSF Grant No. OCE 0929193 .


  • Dupal
  • Early differentiation
  • Mantle heterogeneity
  • Noble gases
  • Volatile recycling
  • Xenon


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