Extreme Heterogeneity in Mid-Ocean Ridge Mantle Revealed in Lavas From the 8°20′N Near-Axis Seamount Chain

Molly Anderson, V. Dorsey Wanless, Michael Perfit, Ethan Conrad, Patricia Gregg, Daniel Fornari, W. Ian Ridley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lavas that have erupted at near-axis seamounts provide windows into mid-ocean ridge mantle heterogeneity and melting systematics which are not easily observed on-axis at fast-spreading centers. Beneath ridges, most heterogeneity is obscured as magmas aggregate toward the ridge, where they efficiently mix and homogenize during transit and within shallow magma chambers prior to eruption. To understand the deeper magmatic processes contributing to oceanic crustal formation, we examine the compositions of lavas erupted along a chain of near-axis seamounts and volcanic ridges perpendicular to the East Pacific Rise. We assess the chemistry of near-ridge mantle using a ∼200 km-long chain at ∼8°20′N. High-resolution bathymetric maps are used with geochemical analyses of ∼300 basalts to evaluate the petrogenesis of lavas and the heterogeneity of mantle feeding these near-axis eruptions. Major and trace element concentrations and radiogenic isotope ratios are highly variable on <1 km scales, and reveal a continuum of depleted, normal, and enriched basalts spanning the full range of ridge and seamount compositions in the northeast Pacific. There is no systematic compositional variability along the chain. Modeling suggests that depleted mid-ocean ridge basalt (DMORB) lavas are produced by ∼5%–15% melting of a depleted mid-ocean ridge (MOR) mantle. Normal mid-ocean ridge basalts (NMORB) form from 5% to 15% melting of a slightly enriched MOR mantle. Enriched mid-ocean ridge basalts (EMORB) range from <1% melting of 10% enriched mantle to >15% melting of 100% enriched mantle. The presence of all three lava types along the seamount chain, and on a single seamount closest to the ridge axis, confirms that the sub-ridge mantle is much more heterogeneous than is commonly observed on-axis and heterogeneity exists over small spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GC009322
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • East Pacific Rise
  • mantle heterogeneity
  • mantle melting
  • mid-ocean ridge basalt
  • near-axis seamounts
  • seamount volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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