Letter | Published:

Enhanced mantle-to-crust rhenium transfer in undegassed arc magmas

Naturevolume 422pages294297 (2003) | Download Citation



Variations in the 187Os/188Os isotopic signature of mantle and mantle-derived rocks have been thought to provide a powerful chemical tracer of deep Earth structure. Many studies have inferred from such data that a long-lived, high-rhenium component exists in the deep mantle (187Re is the parent isotope decaying to 187Os, with a half-life of 42 billion years), and that this reservoir probably consists of subducted oceanic crust1,2,3. The interpretation of these isotopic signatures is, however, dependent on accurate estimates of rhenium and osmium concentrations in all of the main geochemical reservoirs, and the crust has generally been considered to be a minor contributor to such global budgets. In contrast, we here present observations of high rhenium concentrations and low Yb/Re ratios in arc-type melt inclusions. These results indicate strong enrichment of rhenium in undegassed arc rocks, and consequently the continental crust, which results in a crustal estimate of 2 p.p.b. rhenium, as compared to previous estimates of 0.4–0.2 p.p.b. (refs 4, 5). Previous determinations of rhenium in arc materials, which were largely measured on subaerially erupted samples, are likely to be in error owing to rhenium loss during degassing. High mantle-to-crust rhenium fluxes, as observed here, require a revaluation of geochemical models based on the 187Re-187Os decay system1,2,3.

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We thank M. Kamenesky, C. Allen and J. M. G. Shelley for help with sample preparation and laser ablation ICP-MS analyses. We also thank S.-s. Sun for discussions that initiated this work, and D. G. Pearson for comments and suggestions that improved the manuscript. W.S. was supported by an Australian international graduate student scholarship.

Author information


  1. Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia

    • Weidong Sun
    • , Vickie C. Bennett
    •  & Stephen M. Eggins
  2. Department of Geology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia

    • Richard J. Arculus
  3. School of Earth Sciences and CODES SRC, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Australia

    • Vadim S. Kamenetsky


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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Vickie C. Bennett.

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